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How do Georgia Courts Determine the "full value of life?"

If you have lost a loved one and you are considering pursuing a wrongful death action, it is important to understand how Georgia law measures your damages. The standard is referred to as the "full value of life," which considers the economic and noneconomic value of the decedent's life. This approach differs from some states that award damages for the losses suffered by surviving loved ones who have lost the decedent's companionship, advice and consortium. However, Georgia law does not restrict wrongful death damages to a strict formula or place a cap on the value of life.

Economic Loss

When determining the economic loss in a wrongful death lawsuit, the court will look at the present value of the decedent's future earnings had he or she lived. Various factors must be considered such as the decedent's age, health, income, type of labor or services he or she provided, value of such labor or services, and any other fact that would impact the value of his or her life.

For example, if the decedent was close to retirement or had been diagnosed with cancer at the time of death, the court may decrease the projected gross earnings of the decedent's lifetime. In contrast, if the decedent was young and on the rise in his or her career, the economic component of the value of life can be set high.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help formulate the best strategy for establishing economic damages.

Noneconomic Damages

Calculating the intangible component of the value of life can be more difficult. There is no concrete formula to follow, so a subjective approach is used to determine what the decedent's life was worth to him or her. The judge or jury is called upon to use their own life experiences to make this determination. Thus, factors such as the decedent's relationships, standard of life, hobbies, interests, and any other influences that were important to the decedent are important. It is extremely beneficial to demonstrate the intangible aspects of the decedent's life through testimony of family members and other loved ones.

Life Expectancy

The court can also refer to life expectancy tables when considering both economic and noneconomic aspects of the decedent's value of life. Georgia's evidence code uses the Commissioners 1958 Standard Ordinary Mortality Table and the Annuity Mortality Table for 1949, Ultimate.

Pain and Suffering

In some cases, the decedent's estate may have a claim of pain and suffering that the decedent experienced prior to the death, a claim for medical expenses and funeral costs. A claim for punitive damages must be brought by the decedent's estate since it is a "survival action" since it survives the decedent's death.

Having an experienced attorney on your side is crucial to obtaining all the financial compensation you deserve for your injury. The attorneys of Murphy & Garner, LLC, have over 32 years of experience serving clients in western Georgia and the surrounding area. We will fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve. Call us today for a free consultation at (866) 942-0552 or (678) 563-1584.

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