How accidental death and dismemberment insurance (AD&D) works

AD&D insurance pays out a death benefit if you are seriously injured or die from an accident.

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Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

&Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

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Kristi Sullivan, CFP®

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®

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Kristi Sullivan, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, she was a regional consultant at Fidelity Investments for nine years.

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AD&D insurance is usually offered by employers as an alternative to life insurance, but it’s generally inexpensive if you buy a private policy. However, because AD&D insurance isn’t nearly as robust as life insurance, it shouldn’t completely replace your life insurance coverage. If you can afford it, a separate AD&D policy can supplement your life insurance coverage. But you can also add an AD&D rider to your life policy.

What is accidental death and dismemberment insurance?

AD&D pays out if you die in an accident (the accidental death part of the policy) or if an accident causes you to lose a hand, foot, or limb (the dismemberment part of the policy).

Because AD&D only pays out under specific circumstances, it’s not a suitable substitute for life insurance. Whereas AD&D insurance only pays out if you are injured or killed in an accident, life insurance pays out for most causes of death

→ Learn more about the difference between life insurance and AD&D insurance

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What does accidental death and dismemberment insurance cover?

AD&D insurance generally covers:

  • Death in an accident, like a car crash or airplane crash

  • Death by murder

  • Loss of limb or finger

  • Loss of sight, hearing, or speech

If you are injured or killed in an accident, you or your family can make a claim with your insurance company. The insurer will then pay a benefit amount based on your injuries (or death), as listed in your policy.

What doesn’t accidental death and dismemberment insurance cover?

AD&D policies have a number of exclusions for accidents. For example, it won’t pay a benefit if your death is the result of something going wrong during a surgery. Individual states also have their own exclusions to AD&D coverage.

AD&D insurance won't pay out if you die in one of the following ways:

  • Activities considered high risk by insurers, such as skydiving

  • Drug overdose

  • Drunk driving

  • Illness, such as a heart attack

  • Natural causes

  • Suicide

At the end of the day, an AD&D insurance policy won’t pay out for most causes of death. Policies will only pay out from accidents. 

The cost of AD&D insurance 

An AD&D policy usually costs $7 to $10 per month per $100,000 of coverage, but how much you actually pay for AD&D insurance depends on your age. The older you are, the higher your premiums — much like most other types of insurance

Regardless, AD&D insurance tends to cost less than a traditional term life insurance policy — but comes with the caveat of coverage limitations and a big chance that your family won’t actually receive the benefit. There is a high likelihood that traditional life insurance will pay out compared to an AD&D policy, so a traditional term life insurance policy offers more value for its cost.

Who needs accidental death and dismemberment insurance?

AD&D insurance is best suited for anyone on a tight budget with dependents who would financially suffer in the event of your impairment or death. It can be a valuable financial safeguard if you cannot afford traditional life insurance, as it costs less. There is no medical underwriting, and anyone can buy a policy as long as they meet age requirements.

Alternatives to AD&D insurance

The best alternative to a standalone AD&D insurance plan on top of your insurance policies is an AD&D rider that you can add on to your life insurance policy for an extra fee.

The AD&D rider offers a bigger payout than your standard death benefit if your cause of death is an accident that the rider covers. The rider will also pay a set amount if you lose a limb or digit from a covered accident but do not die. 

Costs of accidental death benefit riders vary by insurance company and policy, but $50,000 of coverage would likely cost less than $100 extra per year, or about $8 per month — which isn’t that much more than a standalone policy. 

Is AD&D insurance worth it?

As a standalone policy, AD&D insurance doesn't provide robust enough coverage. Life insurance and disability insurance provide better security and don’t have payout limitations like AD&D insurance does. If you can afford it, adding a supplemental AD&D rider to your life insurance policy creates even more comprehensive coverage that would pay out even if you survived an accident. 

But if you're unable to afford a traditional life insurance policy, AD&D insurance is a good alternative. Because of its low cost, it ensures that you have at least some coverage to financially protect your family if you become impaired or die in an accident.

Frequently asked questions

What is AD&D insurance?

Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance pays out a lump sum to your loved ones if you’re impaired or die in a qualifying accident.

Is AD&D insurance worth getting?

AD&D insurance doesn’t offer as comprehensive coverage as life or disability insurance, and should not replace either plans. Instead, it should be used to supplement your life and disability coverage.

Does AD&D insurance cover car accidents?

Yes. AD&D insurance covers car accidents. However, it does not cover accidents caused by drunk driving.