Wrongful Death Case Worth in Georgia

What Damages Can Be Sought in a Wrongful Death Case?

 

In discussing damages in a wrongful death case, it’s important to recognize that Georgia law provides for two separate claims to be brought in this type of action: (1) the claim for the “full value of the life of the deceased” from the perspective of the deceased; and (2) the claim held by the estate of the deceased.  Each of these claims involves different types of damages.

 

Full Value of Life Claim

According to O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1, the value of human life should be viewed from the perspective of the deceased, that is, in determining the full value of life, a Georgia jury is to consider the value of the deceased’s life to themselves.  Proving damages on the full value of life involves demonstrating the quality of life that the decedent enjoyed and the respective impact they had on the world around them.  Details of their life in photographs, written communication, and stories from friends and family are an essential element to this claim.  This type of evidence educates the jury on the type of life the deceased lived and the legacy they left for those who knew them best.

There is no cap on the award of damages for the full value of the deceased’s life, and it is common for these awards to reach well into the seven figures.

 

Estate Claim

Apart from damages from the perspective of the deceased, the deceased’s estate also holds a claim in a wrongful death case.  The estate’s claim is comprised of any medical bills incurred by the deceased as a result of the incident leading to their death, any conscious pain and suffering endured by the deceased from the time of injury until the time of death, and expenses related to the deceased’s funeral.

Damages for this claim can vary widely, depending on how soon after the injury the deceased ultimately passes away.  However, if the deceased lived for any length of time after suffering the fatal injury, the damages for conscious pain and suffering can be quite significant.  Similarly, if it can be shown that the deceased had time to comprehend that death was imminent, this factor would also increase the value of the estate’s claim.  Of course, how long the deceased is able to survive after the injury also controls the amount of medical expenses incurred for their treatment and pre-death care.

Finally, it is important to note that damages in a wrongful death case are not subject to estate or income taxes, nor are they subject to the claims of the deceased’s creditors.