Unit Measurement Approach When Discussing Wrongful Death Damages

If a 28 year old male is killed and hypothetically he should have a 48 year life expectancy, when killed at age 28, the decedent has lost 46 years of his life according to the Annuity Mortality Tables of most states. Forty-eight years translates into 46 years times 365 days a year times 16 hours a day of consciousness (46x365x16=268,640 hours). Because we sleep for 8 hours a day, if one argues before a jury that the decedent would have consciously enjoyed life for 46 years times 365 days a year times 16 hours in a day this would result in the loss of 268,640 hours of life.
One way to approach a jury is to ask what would be fair compensation for the loss of human life. The average CEO in this country makes $10 million per year. Forty-six years of life is worth at least what a CEO makes in a single year and that’s an average CEO. Another way to look at it is to say to the jury that they should award what they consider to be fair compensation for the loss of life itself, the enjoyment of life, the relationships of life and things that will be lost forever, such as the relationship with a spouse, a child, professional pursuits, etc. Are such damages worth $20.00 an hour? If so, using the calculations above, the unit measurement approach for wrongful death damages, the full value of the life of the decedent would translate into 46 years x 365 days in a year x 16 hours of consciousness per day x $20.00 per hour for the loss of the life, which equals $5,372,800.00. Is this fair compensation for the loss of a life of a 28 year old male? Should it be double ($40.00/hr) or triple ($60.00/hr) this amount?
Under Georgia law, the measurement of damages is left to the enlightened consciousness of fair and impartial jurors seeking justice. A jury will have to decide what fair compensation is for the loss of human life based upon the educational background of the decedent, what they had to look forward to in their life and what they lost at the time of their wrongful death. This is a difficult calculation for any jury because translating the value of human life into dollars and cents is difficult at best even for the most fair and responsible juror. Nonetheless, it has to be done because there is no way to restore life to the decedent. All that we can do in our civil justice system is to provide a measure of compensation for that which was wrongfully taken.
As seen herein, the unit measurement approach can be used to instruct a jury on the different ways to look at the issue. Another unit measurement approach would be to simply assign a dollar amount per year of life. What is human life worth for an entire year? If an average CEO makes $10 million working, what is the value of the quality of any individual’s life per year? If a basketball player is paid $20 million to pay for two or three years in the NBA, what should a person’s life be worth for the 46 years of his entire life which was wrongfully taken from him? There are many analogies which can be used, but suffice it to say, arguing damages in a wrongful death case is always a challenge because it involves very complex issues based upon the unique circumstances of any given case.

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