Life insurance vs. accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) insurance

AD&D insurance covers accidental death and injuries, but offers much less protection than life insurance, which covers most causes of death.

Rebecca Shoenthal author photoAmanda Shih author photo


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.

&Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

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Kristi Sullivan, CFP®

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®

Certified Financial Planner

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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Life insurance provides financial protection for your family and will pay out for almost any cause of death. Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance, on the other hand, only pays out for accidental death or accidental injury, such as loss of limb.

Life insurance and AD&D insurance overlap slightly, but for most people, it's better to get life insurance coverage because it’s comparable in price and covers you in more scenarios.

Life insurance vs. AD&D: Coverage comparison

CircumstanceTerm life insuranceAD&D insuranceTerm life insurance with an AD&D rider
Death by natural causes, sickness, or diseaseYesNoYes
Death by drug overdoseYesNoYes
Death by suicideYesNoYes
Death by accident (car crash, airplane crash)YesYesYes
Death by murderYesYesYes
Loss of limb, sight, hearing, or speechNoYesYes



Average monthly premiums for a 35-year-old non-smoking male with a Preferred health rating buying a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, SBLI, and Transamerica; a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy with an accidental death and dismemberment rider based on rates from four carriers offering that coverage through Policygenius, including AIG, Mutual of Omaha, Prudential, and Transamerica; and a $500,000 accidental death and dismemberment policy issued by Mutual of Omaha. Referenced policies may vary by carrier. Not all policies are available in all states. Individual rates will vary as eligibility and availability will affect each customer’s rate. Rate illustration valid as of 1/11/2022.

Note that AD&D insurance has some exclusions, including injuries sustained before coverage and death while participating in riots. Each state may have its own exclusions for what AD&D insurance will cover.

Life insurance covers more causes of death than AD&D insurance. The more comprehensive coverage ensures that your loved ones get financial support even if you die of natural causes.

Life insurance gets costlier as you age, but if you buy it now, the affordable rates you pay today are what you’ll pay in 20 years. Meanwhile, if you rely on AD&D insurance for 20 years and need to buy a life insurance policy when you’re older, you'll pay much more for the policy.

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Life insurance vs. AD&D: The basics

When comparing life insurance and AD&D, it’s helpful to understand the fundamentals of each type of coverage.

Life insurance

Life insurance provides financial protection to loved ones when you die. You pay premiums to keep your policy active and the death benefit goes to your named beneficiaries after you’re gone.

The most common types of life insurance are:

  • Term life insurance: Expires after a number of years outlined in the policy

  • Whole life insurance: A type of permanent life insurance; remains active as long as premiums are paid and contains a savings-style cash value account

A term life insurance policy is the best option for most people, because it’s affordable and straightforward.

Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance

An AD&D policy covers death from accidents, but it doesn't cover death from natural causes like old age or illness.

AD&D insurance also pays out part of the benefit in some instances of injury or accidental loss of limbs. Your policy will outline how much of the benefit you'll receive for different types of injuries.

Supplemental life insurance vs. AD&D insurance

If you have life insurance through your employer, the coverage provided by your company may actually be AD&D insurance. Check your benefits paperwork or speak with a benefits administrator to confirm what causes of death are insured by your policy.

In this scenario, it makes sense to buy supplemental life insurance to ensure you’re fully protected. It’s best to supplement with a private life insurance policy because any policy you get from your employer doesn’t stay with you when you leave the company. 

Do you need AD&D insurance if you have life insurance?

You don't need AD&D insurance if you have life insurance, but it's a good complement to your policy if you can afford it. An AD&D policy is a low-cost way to add some extra protection against unexpected injuries.

The most comprehensive income protection for injuries is a disability insurance policy, but private disability insurance may not fit into every budget as easily.

If you're primarily concerned about accidents while traveling, speak with an insurance agent about the best option for you. They can help you find a travel insurance policy or your credit card company may offer travel protection that satisfies your needs.

Accidental death and dismemberment riders

If you want both life insurance and AD&D insurance, a rider is a viable option.

An AD&D rider — also known as a double-indemnity rider — pays out an extra amount if your death is accidental. If the death is from natural causes, your policy simply pays out the base amount.

Ask an expert about life insurance companies that offer an AD&D rider.

If you can only choose one kind of coverage, life insurance is the best choice because AD&D can leave you without protection if you die from natural causes, sickness, disease, drug overdose, or suicide. For those looking for the most comprehensive protection, adding an AD&D rider to your life insurance policy is a better option than AD&D insurance alone.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between life insurance and AD&D insurance?

Life insurance pays a tax-free benefit to your beneficiaries if you die, whereas AD&D pays out to your beneficiaries if you die or are injured in an accident.

Do I need both life insurance and AD&D insurance?

Most people only need life insurance, which covers more causes of death than AD&D and is similarly affordable.

Is AD&D insurance worth buying?

Most people don’t need AD&D as a standalone policy. If you’d like some coverage for accidental injuries, an AD&D rider or standalone disability policy are better choices.