What Is Considered Accidental Death in Life Insurance?

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Accidental Death and Dismemberment (ADD) insurance coverage is available to you through most insurance companies as a rider to an existing life or health insurance policy. If you travel frequently, have a high-risk job or participate in extreme sports (for example, skydiving, bungee jumping, auto racing) the insurer will pay additional benefits if you die or are injured in ways specifically defined by the policy.

Definitions and Exclusions

High-risk = Low Insurability

Most insurers define an accidental death as one that occurs without warning or anticipation. If you routinely engage in what insurers consider high-risk activities (bungee jumping, skydiving, auto racing for example), the itemization of qualifying deaths can exclude certain types of death.

Transportation Accidents

If you die as the direct result of a vehicular, air, or sea accident that you did not deliberately cause, your insurer will pay your beneficiary the accidental death benefit, which is normally twice the value of your insurance policy's face value. Even if you were the driver or pilot, as long as you did not intend to cause the accident, the insurer will pay.

Death by Misadventure

If you die as the direct result of what insurance companies term "misadventure" (murder, fatal falls, work-related or industrial accidents and similar), your insurer will investigate the circumstances of the death and pay your beneficiary two or three times the face value of your policy. The payout conditions are identified in the ADD policy rider.

Benefit Qualifications

What accidental death insurers will not pay for is a death that is not the direct result of injuries you sustain. If you die on the operating table as a result of a surgical complication, it does not qualify as accidential death. Similarly, suicide or death on a battlefield in military service is not considered an accidental death.

Assessing Risk vs. Cost

Worth the Risk?

Insurance companies use actuarial tables to calculate risk and determine premiums. If you buy an accidental death and dismemberment rider, decide whether the likelihood of dying accidentally justifies the insurance premiums you must pay for the policy.

The Fine Print

When you purchase an accidental death and dismemberment rider, read all the fine print and confirm that what is written reflects your understanding of the payment terms, death benefits, and what is both included and excluded from your coverage. If you do not understand the rider language, consult with an attorney for clarification before signing.

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