Wrongful Death Damages

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Measure of Damages in wrongful death cases in Georgia are extremely important to fully understand.  Well, let me rephrase that to say that it is extremely important that your Georgia wrongful death attorney understands.

Wrongful Death Damages:  Punitive Damages

No punitive claims exist in Georgia wrongful death cases.  That is because the law itself provides for damages that in a sense are punitive in nature of a civil penalty.  Furthermore, Georgia law does not permit double recovery in these circumstances.  However, I am speaking about the deceased there.  The estate of the deceased may have a claim for punitive damages.  That is not double recovery under the law.

Damages for decedent’s pain and suffering in the last moments before passing away is an essential element of damages in a Georgia wrongful death case.  This is a recoverable portion of the claim.  If the decedent died instantaneously, then no recovery may be had.  However, in most cases the decendent was aware of their impending death and suffered the pain of the moment.  Insurance companies and juries understand the value of this type and level of pain and anxiety.

Damages for intentional emotional distress are also recoverable items in a wrongful death claim.

Be sure to see our page on the overview of Georgia wrongful death cases.

Theses types of wrongful death damages are also recoverable in Georgia cases.  Discuss this with your attorney about how this changes your case.

Where the Defendant is liable and there is no reason to reduce the damages, the plaintiff is entitled to recover the value of the decedent’s life. Western & A.R.R. v. Reed, 35 Ga. App. 538, 134 S.E. 134 (1926).

The measure of wrongful death damages is the full value of the life of the deceased, irrespective of its real value to the person in whom the cause o action is vested. Western & A.R.R. v. Michael, 175 Ga. 1, 165 S.E. 37 (1932).

Further, the factfinder is permitted wide latitude in calculating the “full value” of decedents’ lives. Economic losses associated with the decedent’s deaths may be considered, as well as any noneconomic, intangible losses deemed relevant. Childs v. United States 923 F. Supp. 1570 (S.D. Ga. 1996).

The term “full value of the life of the decedent is construed to mean gross sum that deceased would have earned to end of his life reduced to its present cash value. Pollard v. Boatwright, 57 Ga. App. 565, 196 S.E. 215 (1938).

In addition, the jury is not bound to find that lifetime earnings reduced to present value is the full value of the life of the decedent but such is an aid only to the jury in making such determination. Bulloch County Hosp. Auth. V. Fowler, 124 Ga. App. 242, 183 S.E.2d 586 (1971), overruled on other grounds, 131 Ga. App. 321, 205 S.E.2d 421 (1974).

No need for evidence of future earnings in case of a young child is required under Georgia law. It is not necessary for the evidence to show what the future earnings might be incases where there is no selection of a vocation or other facts from which future earnings can be determined. Collins v. McPherson, 91 Ga. App. 347, 85 S.E.2d 552 (1954).

Elements of the full value of life are divided into two elements.  The jury is vested with discretion in applying these elements. The first is the following:

Wrongful Death Damages:  Economic Value of Decedent’s Life

The second element is the intangible incapable of exact proof.  This has been the holding since Southwestern R. Co. v. Paulk, in 1858.-

Reducing the value to present day value

Full value of a minor child –  Even though the child does not have an established income, the jury can determine what the economic value of the child’s life.

Georgia case law on wrongful death damages: The Georgia Wrongful Death Act (OCGA § 51–4–1 et seq.) provides that designated persons (including a surviving child) have the right to recover “the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived.” OCGA §§ 51–4–1; 51–4–2(a). The full value of the decedent’s life is the economic value and the value of other non-economic intangible items that the decedent would have attained to the end of his life had he lived. Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga.App. 275, 280 (558 S.E.2d 836) (2002). Since these damages are measured from the decedent’s point of view, there is no recovery for damages, including mental or emotional suffering, experienced by the decedent’s survivors as a result of the wrongful death. Id. at 281; Bulloch County Hosp. Auth. v. Fowler, 124 Ga.App. 242, 247–248 (183 S.E.2d 586) (1971), overruled on other grounds, Gilson v. Mitchell, 131 Ga.App. 321, 328 (205 S.E.2d 421) (1974); OB–GYN Assoc. of Albany v. Littleton, 259 Ga. 663, 664 (386 S.E.2d 146) (1989), overruled on other grounds, Lee v. State Farm Mut, Ins. Co, 272 Ga. 583, 588, n. 8 (533 S.E.2d 82) (2000).  The Georgia survival statute at OCGA § 9–2–41 provides that the decedent’s personal representative has the right to recover separate damages for the decedent’s pre-death physical and mental pain and suffering.

Non-recoverable items in a wrongful death claim

Certain items are not recoverable in wrongful death claims.  These are generally the pain and suffering of family members.  These are not recoverable even though they feel and are real.  The reason why is because this was not the decedent’s loss, but rather the family of the decedent.  To expand on this point further, the plaintiff spouse cannot recover for loss of consortium because the wants and needs of the plaintiff are not those of the decedent.  Do note that if a physical impact has created an injury in multiple people, then those injuries are additionally recoverable.  For example, if a parent and child were in a car accident, and one died.  The other would likely be able to recover for additional money because of the physical impact.  The recovery would be for having to witness the death of the loved one.  If if had not been injured, just seeing the child die is in of itself, not a recoverable tort in Georgia.

Collateral source rule in Georgia wrongful death cases.  This means that if you have life insurance, you do not have to reduce the amount of money from the at-fault party just because their is insurance you have.  Further, the plaintiff is not allowed to introduce evidence of the lack of insurance or the defendant’s insurance policy.  Using the Georgia wrongful death act and other statutes, we will use a life expectancy table to help determine the full value of the loss of earnings or income losses.  We will make sure to get full compensation because of the negligent death by fighting the attorneys and wrongful death lawyers for the insurance company.  I will be your representative before the court if we must file a Georgia wrongful death suit.  Hire a lawyer that cares.

Famous Wrongful Death Cases:

  • List of cases of police brutality in the United States – The family filed a wrongful death suit against the police department when the police refused to release the names of the officers and the.…  Some will love to get angry reading this list of brutality and death cases.
  • The Notorious B I G – Wrongful Death In March 2005 the relatives of Wallace filed a wrongful death claim against the city of Los Angeles based on the evidence.…  He is still releasing music.  The beat goes on without him.  RIP.
  • O J Simpson – Wrongful death civil trial California unanimously found Simpson liable for the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman and battery.…  This was the less watched trial.  The one you likely watched was the criminal trial which was followed by the wrongful death lawsuit.

Legal article published by Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney, Joseph P. McClelland.  For more information on wrongful death damages, contact our office at 770-775-0938.