No one wants to imagine themselves being severely injured. Unfortunately, disabilities are much more common than you might believe. According to data from DisabilityInsurance.org, 18.7% of Americans currently live with a disability and 1 in every 4 American workers suffers a disabling injury before they reach retirement.
A disabling injury can also be expensive. About 350,000 bankruptcies can be attributed to debilitating injuries each year. The average economic cost of a nonfatal injury is over $70,000, plus the cost of lost wages.
Use our guide to disability insurance to learn more about how you can get coverage for lifeâs unexpected injuries.
Disability insurance is a type of insurance coverage that protects your income if you suffer a disability that renders you at least partially unable to do your job.
For example, if youâre a court reporter and you break your hand, disability insurance will supplement a portion of your income when youâre unable to work. There is no one standard definition of âdisabledâ used in the insurance industry, so individual policies differ.
Policies that employ a broader definition of disability tend to also have higher premiums, while policies that only pay out under very specific circumstances usually cost less per month.
If youâre an independent contractor, you arenât required to carry disability insurance except in certain high-risk industries in some states. However, if youâre a business owner who employs at least one worker, you may be required to purchase a special type of disability insurance for your employees called workersâ compensation.
Workersâ compensation is a type of disability insurance that grants employees medical benefits and wage replacement. In exchange, you relinquish your ability to sue your employer if youâre injured on the job.
Workersâ compensation is different than disability insurance because it only covers injuries sustained at work. Disability insurance offers you a payout regardless of where or how you are injured unless specifically stated otherwise in your policy.
Workersâ compensation requirements vary drastically by state. For example, if youâre a business owner in Rhode Island, youâre not required to purchase workersâ compensation insurance unless you employ more than 3 people, while business owners in California must purchase workersâ compensation as soon as you hire your first employee.
To learn about your stateâs specific workersâ compensation requirements, visit the National Federation of Independent Business.
Disability insurance is different than health insurance, though many policy providers can bundle both types of insurance together for a discounted rate. Health insurance only covers the costs of receiving medical care and filling prescriptions.
It doesnât supplement your insurance even if you become permanently disabled. Disability insurance, on the other hand, wonât cover the costs of treatment for your injury, but it does provide you with income while you focus on healing or managing your condition. Â
For example, letâs say that youâre a contractor, you break your hand, and youâre unable to work. Your health insurance would cover the cost of immediate and ongoing medical treatments such as medical care at the hospital, physical therapy, prescription painkillers, etc.
Disability insurance wonât assist you in paying your medical bills but will provide compensation to supplement your income as youâre sidelined from your job.
Disability insurance is also different than life insurance. Life insurance only offers compensation to your beneficiaries when you die. In rare circumstances, you may be able to access âliving benefitsâ through your life insurance, but this is usually restricted to policyholders who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
The bottom line? Disability, health and life insurance are all very different, and youâll need more than one policy if you want multiple protections.
There are two major types of disability insurance policies that you can buy from independent coverage providers:
Short-term disability policies typically replace between 60% and 70% of your base salary and pay out over the course of 6 months to a year, depending on your policy specifics. As the name suggests, short-term disability policies are not intended to compensate for permanent injuries or disabilities.
Short-term policies also have shorter waiting periods before insurance coverage âkicks in,â typically between 1 to 2 weeks after you sign onto your policy.
Long-term disability insurance policies typically replace between 40% to 60% of your standard income. Long-term benefits extend much further than short-term disabilities, usually until the disability ends or you reach retirement age â whichever comes first.
Long-term policies usually have longer waiting periods than short-term policies; the most common waiting period is 90 days until benefits begin.
Itâs important to note that even if you donât have a private disability insurance policy, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) even if youâre under the age of 65. However, SSDI is not a reliable choice for most individuals â the policy is notoriously difficult to qualify for and over 65% of initial claims are denied because the definition of a âdisabilityâ is so strict.
Even if you do qualify for SSDI, it can take over two years to begin receiving benefits. If you believe that youâre at a particularly high risk of becoming disabled, itâs better to buy a private policy.
On average, you can expect to pay between 1% and 3% of your annual gross income for your disability insurance each year. However, the specific amount youâll pay for your disability insurance depends upon a number of factors, including:
Is another insurance premium really worth it? Take the following factors into consideration if youâre still debating whether you need disability insurance.
Serious injuries are much more common in some professions, particularly those heavily physical in nature. If you work in the fire protection, farming, ice manufacturing, mining, police protection or raw metal processing industry, you should seriously consider buying some form of disability insurance.
Doctors, lawyers and other highly skilled professionals often have large student loan balances â and may quickly fall behind on payments if they lose their ability to work.
Disability insurance can help you keep up with bills in the event that youâre injured and unable to do your job.
When your savings account looks sparse, paying for another insurance premium may seem counterproductive. However, if youâre injured and unable to work without savings, medical bills and living expenses can wreak financial havoc on your household.
Disability insurance can protect you against total financial loss.
Chances are that your employer offers multiple types of group disability insurance policies in addition to workersâ compensation. Group disability policies are often much less expensive than individual policies, so talk to your supervisor or HR manager to learn more about employer-sponsored options.
A robust emergency fund can help you stay afloat if youâre unable to work for a short period of time. If you currently have at least 6 monthsâ worth of savings in the bank, the cost of disability insurance may outweigh its benefits.
Getting disability insurance is similar to getting life insurance, homeowners insurance or motorcycle insurance. First, youâll need to look for quotes from insurance providers. Most providers now allow you to get a quote online in as little as a few minutes.
When youâve chosen a provider, an agent will get in touch with you via phone or email and present you with a list of policy options. Read through each option thoroughly, make careful note of when your policyâs coverage begins and pay your first monthâs premium.
Your choice of insurance provider and plan can seriously affect your coverage level.
Some qualities to look for in a great disability insurance policy include:
Guaranteed renewable coverage. What good is a disability insurance policy if your insurance provider can cancel it when youâre injured. Look for a policy with a âguaranteed renewalâ policy â this means that your insurance agent cannot cancel your benefits if youâre injured or become disabled.
Broad definition of âdisability.âPolicies with a wider definition of what counts as a disability will offer you compensation in a wider range of circumstances.
Limited waiting period. Most insurance policies have a waiting period from the time you sign on to the time your benefits and coverage kick in. Look for an insurance provider that offers shorter waiting periods â 14 days is considered average for a short-term disability policy.
The top disability insurance companies have some combination of the features above. Letâs take a closer look of our picks.
With over 100 years of experience in the insurance realm, MassMutual is one of the most trusted insurance providers in the United States.
Its disability insurance options are as comprehensive as its other forms of coverage. MassMutualâs definition of a âdisabilityâ is more comprehensive than most insurance providers.
Youâll get coverage if youâre too injured to continue in your current occupation, not any job.
MassMutual also offers a number of insurance riders to customize your coverage. For example, you can buy a rider that will increase your benefitsâ salary over time, just like you would see an increase in salary over time if you werenât too injured to work.
Offering both short and long-term disability coverage, MetLife is one of the countryâs top choices when it comes to individual disability insurance.
MetLifeâs disability policies include an easy claim-filing process that can be completed online or by phone.
A weekly payout schedule that can help make budgeting easier and incentives for rehabilitation and recovery treatments.
MetLife also allows you to lower your monthly premium by choosing a longer waiting period before benefits begin.
This means that if you have enough in savings to cover the full 180-day maximum waiting period, you can save for the entire length of your policy term.
Mutual of Omaha offers a number of short- and long-term disability plan options. You can even customize your plan to include coverage for accidents, work-related injuries and additional survivorsâ benefits if you lose your life after a disabling injury.
Optional benefits and riders include rehabilitation incentives, critical illness riders and return of premium after youâre disabled for 90 days.
Policies from Mutual of Omaha are guaranteed renewable until you reach age 67 and cannot be canceled by the insurance company unless you donât pay your premium.
Mutual of Omahaâs plans also include a unique disability percentage benefit as well. If youâre partially disabled and can only complete 50% of your work tasks, for example, youâll receive 50% income supplementation. Â
The most valuable asset in your home may not be your car or a family heirloom â itâs your ability to work and earn a living. A disability can change everything in a second. If you work in a high-risk field and you donât currently have disability insurance through your job, consider collecting a few quotes from competing providers. You might be surprised at how little it costs to protect your income and lifestyle.