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What Is Accidental Death vs. AD&D Insurance?

By Jessica Sillers Jul 12, 2022

In this article

What It Means to Be Covered Against Accidents

The Big Difference Between AD and AD&D

Is AD&D Worth It?

What Do AD and AD&D Cost?

If you’re looking at insurance options to cover you in case you were to face an accident, you’ll come across two kinds of accidental death policies. Accidental death insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance can both offer coverage to protect your family if something were to happen to you in an accident.

So which policy comes out ahead? Both kinds of insurance can make sense for different people, and it takes some careful evaluation of what is (and isn’t) included in a policy to decide which option will be the best value for you.

What It Means to Be Covered Against Accidents

Accidental death (AD) insurance and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance often get lumped together, but they’re not totally interchangeable.

Both policies are forms of insurance that don’t require a medical exam. As long as you fit the qualifying age (and, in some cases, occupation), you’re guaranteed coverage. Both AD and AD&D insurance also cover a specific set of accidental circumstances, as opposed to the broader coverage of a policy like term life

In other words, if you were to pass away due to an illness (i.e., cancer) or an accident (i.e., car crash) while your policy is in force, term life insurance would pay money to the beneficiary you’ve chosen. They could use the money for whatever they need, from your final expenses to their daily cost of living. Meanwhile, if you had AD or AD&D insurance, your beneficiary would receive the funds if you passed away due to an accident, but not if you died due to an illness.

What exactly counts as a qualifying accident can vary from company to company, but you may see coverage for accidents such as:

  • Motor vehicle accidents

  • Drowning

  • Fires

  • Falls

  • Exposure to the elements

  • Choking

You’ll also generally see exclusions for certain types of deaths:

  • War or riots

  • Death while over legal limits of drugs or alcohol

  • Racing

  • Extreme sports

  • Accidents while committing or attempting to commit a crime

  • Illness

  • Natural causes

  • Suicide

The Big Difference Between AD and AD&D

The real distinction between AD and AD&D insurance is that extra “D” for “dismemberment.” You may be entitled to an AD&D benefit even if you don’t pass away, if you sustain a qualifying injury in an accident. Talk through policy details carefully with an AD&D insurance provider to understand which injuries qualify, when you would get a full or partial benefit and what the maximum benefit is (e.g., if you are involved in multiple accidents).

What is dismemberment?

Dismemberment injuries do all meet a certain threshold of severity, but they may encompass a wider range of outcomes than you might think. Dismemberment, in insurance terms, tends to refer to an injury involving loss of a body part or loss of a major body function. Partial or total paralysis, loss of sight or hearing in at least one side, or loss of a limb would count as forms of dismemberment.

Insurers also don’t necessarily weight all injuries equally. Some companies will offer 50 percent of the payout if you lose sight in one eye, for example.

Is AD&D Worth It?

If you’re trying to choose between AD and AD&D insurance, how much value should you put on coverage for dismemberment? Several factors make a difference.

First, consider your lifestyle. If you lead a low-risk life (e.g., work at home, visit museums for fun), it might feel especially unlikely that you’ll experience a serious accidental injury. If you tend to be more adventurous, or even if you just feel self-conscious that you might be clumsy or accident-prone, AD&D insurance might offer you peace of mind.

Next, read over any exclusions carefully because they can vary by insurance company. AD&D insurance won’t be much benefit if your favorite activities are on the exclusion list. If you’re a biker, an AD policy that covers motorcycle accidents could be a better fit than an AD&D policy that doesn’t. Some insurance providers may offer coverage for specific circumstances where someone has an accident while flying a plane, as another example, while many others don’t. If you’re interested in accident coverage because of your piloting hobby, your main focus may be finding any policy that covers this particular accident risk.

Then, consider cost. If you can find an AD policy at the same price as an AD&D policy, then the dismemberment coverage might feel like a free benefit. But if the AD&D policy has higher premiums, consider what are you paying for the dismemberment aspect of the plan. 

Specifically, what is dismemberment coverage worth to you, to give you and your family peace of mind? Is an extra $5 worth paying to have protection for qualifying injuries? An extra $15? It’s an individual decision. Some people may feel that the additional coverage is too limited to feel worthwhile, while others may consider it money well spent.

What Do AD and AD&D Cost?

Comparing premiums directly between AD and AD&D is nuanced because most insurance companies offer one or the other, not both. In articles and educational materials, it’s common to see AD and AD&D get grouped together compared to term life, so if you see an AD&D rate chart, read carefully because there may be some accidental death-only policies included on the list.

The cost of monthly premiums vary widely enough that it’s possible to find AD policies that cost more than AD&D policies for the same coverage (meaning you could pay more for a policy that covers fewer situations). Here are a few signs to look out for to get the best coverage available for you:

  1. Age categories: Many companies offer rates for AD or AD&D policies based on a broad eligible age (e.g., 25-50, 18-69). Companies that structure rates in age tiers (e.g., 35, 45 and 55) may have higher premiums depending on your age.

  2. Premiums and benefit value: If you shop around, you can find multiple AD policies that offer $100,000 of coverage for less than $10 per month. Most AD&D policies we’ve seen cost at least $10 per month for the same coverage. It’s up to you to determine whether the dismemberment option is worth an additional monthly cost.

  3. Exclusions: Different insurance providers set their exclusions differently. Some policies exclude any deaths related to flying an airplane while others cover pilots under certain circumstances (e.g., non-commercial, below a maximum number of flight hours annually). Any accident-related policy will cover a narrower set of situations than term life insurance, but comparing options may help you find policies that align best with the activities you enjoy.

  4. Renewal limits: Some policies let you renew coverage until age 60, others to age 80. Accidents are a more common cause of death for younger people than seniors, so you might choose a lower premium even if it means a lower age limit, or you may feel more secure with coverage for as long as possible. (Here's what you should know about life insurance for seniors.)

Ultimately, a choice between AD and AD&D coverage comes down to your lifestyle and your comfort preferences with insurance. Accidents can be a part of life for anyone. The question is how much you want to factor them into your future preparations, and how well different policies would fit the risks you see as the most important to cover.

Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.

Fabric by Gerber Life exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.

Information provided is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial, legal, or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. We make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use, and disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information.

Fabric by Gerber Life offers a mobile experience for people on-the-go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.

Written by

Jessica Sillers

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