Is a drug or alcohol overdose considered an accidental death?

Will life insurance payout when the insured died due to accidental drug overdose or alcohol poisoning? Sometimes.

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, or from alcohol.

Does life insurance cover suicide by drugs or alcohol?

For the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the medical examiner or coroner records an unintentional poisoning death when a drug was taken accidentally, too much of a drug was taken accidentally, the wrong drug was taken or given in error, an accident occured in the use of a drug in medical or surgical procedures, or there is evidence that a person did not intend to die from ingesting alcohol. Otherwise, the drug or alcohol overdose is considered a suicide, and not an accidental death, and suicide is a common policy exclusion.

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.

Will Life Insurance Pay for Drug Overdose or Alcohol Related Death?


Know that most policies will not cover an overdose where the victim knowingly used illegal drugs. But 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. For example, we recently settled a case where the insured overdosed on Fentanyl, which was prescribed by his physician. The claim was initially denied, but because the insured had several years’ experience using daily Fentanyl patches we were able to argue successfully that the overdose was an accident.

Was Your Claim Denied Due to Drug Overdose or Alcohol Poisoning?

If the insured’s death was due to drug overdose or was alcohol related and your claim was denied, there may be an argument that the insured’s death was accidental and had nothing to do with the substance abuse.  Call us today to schedule your free consultation – we get our clients paid!

Written By: Chad Boonswang
Chad G. Boonswang, Esquire is a litigation lawyer based in Philadelphia, PA. Selected as an ASLA 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 Top 100 Litigation Lawyer, Mr. Boonswang plays to win. As a lawyer, athlete, and scholar, he has always put in the energy, time, and commitment to be the best. After working for several prominent law firms in Philadelphia, including Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, he founded his own practice in 2002.  Since then Chad has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of his clients from life insurance claims and catastrophic injury cases.  Year after year, he has earned a 10.00 Superb rating on Avvo.

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