How Does A Jury Calculate The Full Value Of The Life Of The Decedent?

In a wrongful death action, as indicated in other entries, juries in Georgia are permitted to award both economic and non-economic damages for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” We have written before about the intangible elements of the non-economic damages and the calculations that one would argue to a jury that would be appropriate in establishing lost wages over the earning lifetime of the decedent.
In calculating damages for the full value of the life of the decedent, obviously, every case is different as every individual is unique. You may have a high wage earner, you may have a housewife or child, or an elderly person. The facts in each case are different. However, once the jury decides what fair compensation should be awarded for the non-economic components of the claim, then the jury may calculate the economic damages to come up with a total award. One point to be made here is that only economic damages can be reduced to their present cash value because the money is being awarded today as opposed to having to wait over the expected lifetime of the decedent to recover the same. Non-economic damages, or the intangible elements of a wrongful death claim, however, are never reduced to present cash value.
As indicated in other entries, when a jury awards an amount for the full value of the life of the decedent, it must do so “without deduction of any necessary or other expenses, had he or she lived.” While a jury will be instructed to reduce economic damages to their present cash value again, in most wrongful death claims, the non-economic component of the claim, that being the intangible aspect of the loss of life from the standpoint of the decedent, is the more valuable claim, which hopefully will provide fair compensation for the survivors bring the claim. Counsel must educate the jury that non-economic damages should never be reduced to their present cash value in calculating damages in a wrongful death case.

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