Wrongful Death Damages in Georgia

Among all the 50 states Georgia law is unique because it measures damages in a wrongful death case from the viewpoint of what the deceased lost, not what his or her survivors lost. Under Georgia law, the measure of damages in a wrongful death case is “the full value of the life of the decedent.” See O.C.G.A. §§ 51-4-1(1) and 51-4-4.
The full value of the life of the decedent under Georgia law has two components. First, the economic value of the deceased’s normal life expectancy must be assessed and second, an intangible element, incapable of exact proof, which is measured only by “the enlightened conscious of a jury.” As to the non-economic component of a wrongful death claim, this is, again, measured from the standpoint of the decedent. What did he or she lose at the time of their death? This includes not only the society and affection they lost but also what they had to look forward to in their life, how many years of living they would have otherwise experienced and was taken from them. In future entries on this subject, we will focus on the two elements of a claim for wrongful damages in Georgia. While wrongful death actions arise in a variety of contexts, whether it be automobile accidents, tractor-trailer collisions, product liability claims, medical malpractice lawsuits or otherwise, the measure of damages for a wrongful death is the same: the full value of the life of the decedent. Initially, we will blog on the economic component and thereafter we will blog on the non-economic component of these claims.

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