Life insurance is a great way to ensure that your loved ones will be provided for long after you’re gone. If you were to get sick and pass away, benefits from an insurance policy can replace your income, give them a peace of mind, and leave a lasting legacy. But will your term life insurance policy still pay out in the case of an accidental death?
With few exceptions, the answer is a resounding yes. However, let’s talk about accidental death and the reasons that a life insurance policy might not pay out.
What Term Life Insurance Covers
Term life insurance policies are comprehensive life insurance products. They provide a death benefit of a predetermined amount (or coverage) to policyholders’ beneficiaries, over a predetermined period of time (or term). So, you’ll essentially buy X amount of dollars in benefits for a period of Y time.
You’ll pay the same premium throughout the course of that term. For example, a healthy 38-year-old woman will pay $40-50/mo for a $500,000 policy lasting 20 years. Once you reach the end of that time period, your policy will either expire and you’ll be uninsured, or you’ll need to renew it (often at a higher rate than before).
Term life insurance covers a range of situations. Whether your death is due to an illness or an accident, your loved ones will usually be able to submit a claim for benefits. There are a few exceptions and rules but overall, term life insurance will cover almost every possible cause of death (even suicide).
What is Accidental Death?
Keep in mind that term life insurance policies usually cover deaths that are accidental in nature as well as those that are not. For the sake of this article, though, let’s just discuss what an accidental death entails.
An accidental death is one that is both unexpected and unpredictable. It can involve things like auto accidents, falls, or even drownings. However, it typically excludes situations such as acute or terminal illnesses, as well as, of course, suicide. (After all, that defies the entire premise of accidental.) A death from cancer, for example, is not considered an accidental death. Accidents or Unintentional Injuries are the third leading cause of death in the United States (source: CDC.org)
Even if your death is an accident by definition, there are still circumstances that would preclude it from being labeled an “accidental death” for insurance purposes. For instance, a drug overdose, while unintended, wouldn’t be considered accidental, because you were putting yourself and your life at risk when consuming the substances in question.
The same goes for risky activities such as car racing, participating in war, and engaging in hazardous hobbies like skydiving or base jumping (among others). If you die while participating in an illegal activity, benefits will likely be denied to your beneficiaries, as well.
There is also a period of time during which the insurance company can contest their obligation to pay out benefits to your loved ones. This is called the contestability period, and has the potential to delay payouts or even result in their denial.
What is the Contestability Period?
There is a period of time when you initially sign up for life insurance, where the company can contest any claims made against the policy. This is called the contestability period and typically includes the first two years that you are insured.
During this time, the insurer reserves the right to review, delay, or even deny claims that may typically be approved. For example, while suicide is usually covered under a term or whole life policy, most companies will deny a claim in the first two years, during the contestability period. This prevents those who intend to commit suicide from buying a policy immediately before doing so; it’s a way for the insurance companies to protect themselves.
This period also allows for a more thorough review of your application. If, for instance, you claimed that you had never smoked, but you pass away from lung cancer 18 months after buying a policy, the company may want to take a further look. If it turns out that you were dishonest, they could even deny coverage to your loved ones.
Lastly, this contestability period – and potential for claim denial – doesn’t have to be directly related to your cause of death. Let’s say you claim that you don’t participate in any hazardous activities, such as scuba diving or piloting. If you are killed in a car crash, but the truth comes out that you were an amateur pilot, the insurance company can claim fraud and deny a payout to your loved ones.
This is why it is incredibly important to be as honest as possible during your application and medical exam process.
In addition to your term life coverage, there is the possibility of adding on a rider for accidental death and dismemberment, also called AD&D coverage. This added coverage will provide extra benefits to your loved ones if your death is caused by an accident.
While AD&D coverage is also a standalone product from some life insurance companies, it’s very limited. If you are considering this product, your best bet is to purchase a typical term or whole life policy, then add an AD&D rider. That way, your family will receive death benefits regardless of how you die, but if the cause is an accident, they will actually receive more. Plus, you’ll be covered if you are dismembered in an incident of some kind, even if the accident doesn’t prove fatal.
Term life insurance is a great product for most people, particularly if you’re looking for comprehensive coverage at an affordable rate. Whether you pass away from natural causes, an illness or disease, or even an accidental death, your loved ones will be provided for by your coverage.
Curious about covered and non-covered claims with term life policies, or want to know what’s right for you? Give Leap Life a call at (844) 755-5327. Our licensed life insurance experts can walk you through all of your options, offer you a complimentary quote, and help you build the perfect life insurance package.