Is a drug overdose considered an accidental death?

Insurance policies will differ in definitions of “accidental death,” and state law handles definitions of ‘accident’ differently as well. Additionally, there is nuance when the overdose is from a prescribed drug versus an illegal drug. For the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the medical examiner or coroner records an unintentional drug death when the drug was taken accidentally, too much of a drug was taken accidentally, the wrong drug was taken or given in error, or an accident occured in the use of a drug in medical or surgical procedures. Otherwise, the drug overdose is considered a suicide, and not an accidental death.

Typical life insurance exclusions

  • Some life insurance exclusions dealing with drug overdoses address alcohol as well. The following are some examples from real policies that address drugs or alcohol:no benefits will be paid for any loss or covered injury that:  “Occurs as a consequence of being intoxicated or as a consequence of taking, using or being under the influence of any narcotic unless administered on the advice of a physician.
  • Accidental death benefits are not payable when death occurs as the result of taking drugs or medications that are not prescribed to the decedent, or when taking them against prescribed orders.
  • In no event will we pay a benefit where loss or injury is caused directly or indirectly by, results from, or there is contribution from, any of the following: (6) motor vehicle collision or accident where you are the operator of the motor vehicle and your blood alcohol level meets or exceeds the level at which intoxication is defined in the state where the collision or accident occurred, regardless of the outcome of any legal proceedings connected thereto.
  • The policy does not cover any loss resulting from injury sustained as a result of being legally intoxicated from the use of alcohol.

Does life insurance pay if death was caused by overdose?

Most policies will not cover an overdose where the victim knowingly used illegal drugs.  Overdoses are often a result of an improperly prescribed medication or an accidental double dose of narcotic painkiller or other sedative-type medications. In these cases, there is a high likelihood that the claim will be covered as an accidental death, especially if the deceased was in the care of medical professionals at the time of the overdose.