For the purposes of an insurance policy, an accidental death is any death that results from an accident or external violence. Depending on the policy, there are often exclusions. These exclusions are generally death from acts of war, illegal activities or hazardous hobbies. The death must occur within a certain time frame, as well.
The time frame used in an accidental death policy is measured from the moment of the accident. If death occurs that is a direct result of the accident within the allotted time frame, then the insurance company pays the benefit agreed upon. If death takes longer than the determined time, then no payment is given.
Many accidental death policies include a dismemberment rider -- or extra protection. This rider pays for dismemberment that occurs as the result of an accident. Like the death payment, dismemberment must also occur within an allotted time span.
An accidental death policy is usually added to a normal life insurance policy and pays in addition to the life insurance benefit. The accidental death policy is often purchased at the same time as other insurance policies, typically as a rider to both life insurance policies as well as car insurance policies. Most accidental death riders end as the insurance holder reaches the age of 70. Instances of accidental death rise significantly after one's 70th birthday.