Wrongful Death Damages: The Economic Component

The economic value of a wrongful death claim in Georgia is typically based upon lifetime earnings or the economic value of lifetime services. In a wrongful death case, a plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the age of the decedent when he/she died, probable life expectance and yearly income or the value of such services. From such evidence a jury can compute the gross cash value of the deceased’s economic losses based on remaining life expectancy.
In a hypothetical case where a 25-year old person dies making $30,000.00 per year at a minimum, based on their education and experience, one would anticipate that the wrongful death caused 40 years of lost earnings because typically people work from age 25 to 65 before they retire. Taking into consideration that the deceased would likely receive raises in pay over time based upon the occupation or field they were in, a jury could compute 40 years times the amount of money they were expected to make, then reduce it to its present cash value in making an economic award for wrongful death damages. Again, the computation is left to the jury, but the jury could consider the earnings of the decedent prior to death in making its calculations as to the economic component of the wrongful death claim.
Many lawyers employ economists to assist the jury in understanding the economic component of this portion of a Georgia wrongful death claim. When dealing with a housewife an economist can assist a jury in understanding the value of such services that might be rendered over the life of the decedent. In dealing with a child or a younger individual with a limited or no earnings history, an economist can also be helpful in this regard. For those who do have an earning record, tax returns, pay stubs and other similar evidence can be used to prove to the jury what could have been earned, extrapolated over the remaining life expectancy, for a total economic wrongful death award. Again, such an award is only for the economic portion of the claim and not for the non-economic portion of a wrongful death action in Georgia.

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