What is long-term disability insurance?
Long-term disability insurance helps replace your income if you can’t work for an extended period of time — whether it’s for two years or 20 years. If you’re hurt or sick and don’t have any long-term disability insurance, you’d have to rely on your savings to make up for your lost income while you can’t work.
Since one in four people will become disabled before they retire, shopping for disability insurance may be a good idea, especially for people with high incomes or jobs that require extensive training. 
What does long-term disability insurance cover?
Long-term disability insurance covers you by replacing your income while you’re not able to work, though how exactly you’re covered depends on your policy. Long-term disability can pay out in case of situations like:
An illness that causes you to lose your sight
Complications from pregnancy or childbirth
Nerve damage from a medical condition that makes it hard to use your fingers
Worsening heart disease that makes it impossible to stay at work all day
A sports injury that leads to chronic back pain
Your long-term disability insurance policy may spell out different definitions for partial, full, and catastrophic disabilities. Most of the time, you don’t need to be totally and permanently disabled to receive some long-term disability insurance benefits.
Long-term disability insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. You can still get long-term disability insurance, but your pre-existing condition would be excluded from coverage.
Your policy will also have some exclusions, meaning times when it won’t cover you, like if you’re injured while doing something that’s against the law, or you’re hurt in an act of war, or you have a self-inflicted disabling injury.
How does long-term disability insurance work?
Long-term disability insurance works a lot like other types of insurance: you buy a policy and pay premiums (meaning monthly or yearly payments) to keep it active. If you become temporarily or permanently disabled by an accident or illness, you file a claim and provide information from your doctor and employer proving you’re unable to work.
After you make a successful long-term disability insurance claim, you’ll get regular payments like you did when you got a paycheck. But you won’t start receiving any long-term benefits until your waiting period (or elimination period) ends.
How much you get will depend on your policy, but usually disability insurance pays out a percentage of your income, so it may not totally replace what you were making at work.
Your long-term disability benefits usually aren’t taxable (unlike short-term insurance benefits), and you don't have to pay them back. They’re also often larger than disability benefits from Social Security.
If you get what’s called an "own-occupation" policy, you can keep receiving your disability insurance benefits even if you find another job, while an "any-occupation" disability insurance policy means you can’t get long-term benefits if you can work another job.
Do you need long-term disability insurance?
If you have a high-paying job, or a career that requires lots of schooling or training, you may need long-term disability insurance.
Losing your income and not being able to pay bills or support your family can lead to long-term financial consequences. About 67% of all U.S. bankruptcies and more than half of all foreclosures stem from illness or injury-related medical issues, according to the American Journal of Public Health. 
And a disability may be more likely than you think. More than 1 in 4 workers become disabled before they retire (most often from an illness, not an injury). On average, the disability lasts more than three months.
Long-term disability insurance and coverage through your employer
You may still need long-term disability insurance even if you have a disability insurance policy through your work. Much of the time, the disability insurance you get from your job won’t cover you for as long as you’d need it after a long-term accident or illness.
If you have short-term disability insurance through work, you can combine it with a long-term policy for more complete coverage.
How to get long-term disability insurance
There are seven steps to getting long-term disability coverage:
How much does disability insurance cost?
While the cost of disability insurance changes depending on your age, occupation and benefit level, waiting period, and company, you should expect to pay between 1% to 3% of your annual salary.
Generally speaking, rates get higher when you increase the benefits you would get from a long-term disability insurance policy. Basically, the higher your income, the more you'll pay for long-term disability insurance to cover it.
Cost of long-term disability insurance
$63 to $188 per month
$83 to $250 per month
$104 to $313 per month
$125 to $375 per month
$146 to $438 per month
$167 to $500 per month
$188 to $563 per month
$208 to $625 per month
$229 to $688 per month
$250 to $750 per month
Who has the best long-term disability insurance?
The best long-term disability insurance company depends on your occupation, where you live, how much and what kind of coverage you need, and other factors.
Some companies specialize in providing long-term disability insurance to certain types of workers or to people earning some amount of money. For example, Principal and MassMutual tend to be better for people with a high net worth, and Assurity is better for people with manual jobs.
If you’re not sure how to pick a disability insurance policy, a licensed agent at Policygenius can help you find the best long-term disability insurance company.