What Is an Accidental Death Benefit?

The term accidental death benefit refers to a payment due to the beneficiary of an accidental death insurance policy, which is often a clause or rider connected to a life insurance policy. The accidental death benefit is usually paid in addition to the standard benefit payable if the insured died of natural causes.

Depending on the issuer of the policy, an accidental death benefit may extend up to a year after the initial accident occurs, provided the accident led to the insured's death.

Key Takeaways

  • An accidental death benefit is paid to the beneficiary of an accidental death insurance policy.
  • Accidental death benefits deaths due to accidents.
  • Accidental death benefits are optional riders, so they aren't included in standard life insurance policies.
  • Certain jobs and workers in dangerous environments should consider an accidental death benefit rider.

Understanding Accidental Death Benefits

Accidental death benefits are riders or provisions that may be added to basic life insurance policies at the request of the insured party. Some people choose to add accidental death benefit riders to their policies to protect their beneficiaries if an accident ever occurs. This is important as accidents are hard to predict and can leave family members in a bind when sudden death occurs.

These death benefits are even more important for people who work in or around potentially hazardous environments. Even those who drive more than average—either professionally or as a commuter—should consider accidental death benefit riders.

As an optional feature, the insured party must pay an additional fee on top of their regular premiums to purchase this benefit. Although it may come at an additional cost, the accidental death benefit increases the payout to a policy's beneficiary. This means that the beneficiary receives the death benefit paid by the policy itself plus any additional accidental death benefit covered by the rider. These riders typically end once the insured person reaches age 70.

Special Considerations

Insurance companies define accidental death as an event that strictly occurs as a result of an accident. Deaths from car crashes, slips, choking, drowning, machinery, and any other situations that can't be controlled are deemed accidental. In the case of a fatal accident, death usually must occur within a period specified in the policy.

Some policies' accidental death benefits may also cover dismemberment—total or partial loss of limbs—burns, instances of paralysis, and other similar cases. These riders are called accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance.

Accidents typically exclude things like acts of war and death caused by illegal activities. Death from an illness is also excluded. Any hazardous hobbies that the insured regularly engages in—race car driving, bungee jumping, or any other similar activity—are specifically excluded as well.

Insurance companies won't cover accidental death that results from hazardous hobbies that the insured regularly engages in such as race car driving or bungee jumping.

Types of Accidental Death Benefit Plans

Group Life Supplement

In this type of arrangement, the accidental death benefit plan is included as part of a group life insurance contract, such as those offered by your employer. The benefit amount is usually the same as that of the group life benefit.

Voluntary

This accidental death benefit plan is offered to members of a group as a separate, elective benefit. Offered by your employer, premiums are your responsibility. You generally pay these premiums through regular payroll deductions. Employees are covered for accidents that occur while on the job. Policies pay out benefits for voluntary accident insurance even if the insured party isn't at work.

Travel Accident

The accidental death benefit plan in this arrangement is provided through an employee benefit plan and provides supplemental accident protection to workers while they are traveling on company business. Unlike voluntary accident insurance, the employer usually pays the entire premium for this coverage.

Dependents

Some group accidental death benefit plans also provide coverage for dependents.

Example of Accidental Death Benefit

As a hypothetical example, assume Derrick has a $500,000 life insurance policy with a $1 million accidental death benefit rider. If Derrick dies due to a heart attack—a natural cause—the insurance company will pay his beneficiary $500,000. If he dies as a result of a car accident, his beneficiary will receive the $500,000 life insurance benefit plus the $1 million accidental death benefit for a total payout of $1.5 million.