Proving Damages For The Wrongful Death Of A Child

Obviously, the heartache, trauma and tragedy of losing a child is unspeakable. And yet, as set forth in prior entries, the measure of damages under Georgia law is not from the standpoint of the parents who sustained the loss of a child but rather from the standpoint of the child who lost their life. This can be difficult for any lawyer to prove because a child does not have proven earning’s records nor is the child’s future easily predicted. Typically, because parents who lose children may have other children or may be capable of bearing children in the future, even though the jury will be instructed that the measure of damages is from the standpoint of the decedent, juries may tend to factor into their damage analysis the fact that the parent’s loss may be offset by other practical considerations. This too is a challenge in any wrongful death case involving a young child with young parents.
There is no necessity that a plaintiff prove a child’s earning capacity in order to recover for future economic damages. A jury may look at the education and background of the parents in making determinations about the child’s probable income producing abilities. As an example, counsel could argue what the average wage earner in the United States earns through their lifetime and could argue that increased damages should be due to the heirs-at-law because of the income earning potential demonstrated through parents, siblings or other relatives. It is a challenge to prove the full value of the life of a minor child with no proven earning capacity but nonetheless, the jury is not bound by any fixed criteria in arriving at a fair and impartial verdict that awards compensation for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” Each life is unique and a child is no different. While there might not be as much available evidence to demonstrate the loss of economic damages, the jury will be instructed that even with respect to the death of child, the jury should consider both economic and non-economic damages in determining the “full value of the life of the decedent.”

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