Determining Economic Damages In A Wrongful Death Claim

In determining the economic value of a deceased’s life in Georgia, a jury is not bound by any fixed criteria in reaching its verdict. A Georgia jury may take into consideration the decedent’s age at the time of his/her death, heredity, health, physical condition, habits, character, education, prior earning capacity, the amount of money he or she was earning at the time of his death, any reasonable probability of increase or decrease or reduction in wages or salary, loss of employment, the probability of the decedent working or failing to work voluntarily in the future, the decedent’s life expectancy and any other evidence which would assist the jury in determining the decedent’s future earning capacity. Because all of these issues are left to the enlightened conscience of fair and impartial jurors, it is necessary that plaintiff’s counsel produce evidence from which a jury can consider all of these factors. Again, typically tax returns and pay stubs are used for earners to show what was earned. Evidence as to the age of the decedent, their life expectancy, the education and background are also components of the economic portion of a wrongful death claim. While the value of a life is, obviously, far more important than one’s earning capacity, nonetheless, a jury will be instructed that it may consider both economic and non-economic components in rendering its verdict in a wrongful death claim in Georgia. As to the economic component, again, either an economist can be employed or the Annuity Mortality Table can be utilized to show the life expectancy of the decedent and what their probable lost earnings would have been.

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