In Georgia when an innocent person is killed due to the negligence of a third person, the survivors have a claim for wrongful death damages. The full value of the life of the decedent includes both economic and non-economic components. The economic components are more readily deduced. If you take the earning capacity of the decedent, you multiply it over their projected work life expectancy and come up with a calculation as to what future lost wages would be due to the wrongful death. This is easier with a proven track record of earnings but more difficult for a child with no such record. Even in such cases, wrongful death damages can be estimated by an economist based on the educational background of the decedent’s parents.
In addition to the economic lost wages caused by a wrongful death, the survivors who have the cause of action are entitled to recover the “non-economic” damages due to the death. Such damages are measured from the standpoint of the decedent, however, and not the survivors. This means that a jury is required to look at what the decedent lost when he/she died. What did they lose by the way of companionship and life experiences? In short, what were all the intangible (non-economic) losses due to the wrongful death, which, of course, includes life itself and how many years of the enjoyment and richness of life itself were lost, which is based on the projected life expectancy of the decedent.
All wrongful death cases are quite tragic for surviving family members. When a young person dies or even a middle aged person, its very, very tragic for the survivors. Even those in the latter years of their life have their lives cut short because of the negligence of third parties which entitles their survivors to compensation for s life that was wrongfully taken and wrongfully cut short. While all cases are factually specific, under Georgia law, the age of the decedent, of course, factors into exactly how much was lost from both an economic and non-economic perspective.
In addition to the wrongful death claim itself, the estate of the decedent has claims for funeral and burial expenses and any pre-death pain and suffering experienced by the decedent. Because Georgia law bifurcates the administrator’s claims for such damages from the survivor’s claims fir wrongful death damages, it is necessary that experienced counsel be consulted concerning the difference between the two claims and how they should be pursued in a given case.