How Can a Life Be Valued in a Wrongful Death Case?

Personal Injury

When the negligence of one person results in the death of another, as for example, in a drunk driving accident, the wrongful death statute in Georgia provides a means of compensating the decedent’s loved ones. But how can you put a monetary value on a life?

From an emotional standpoint, you can’t. Each person is unique, and you just can’t put a dollar amount on a life.

But in cases where a person’s death was caused by the negligence, recklessness or even intentional misconduct of another, compensating the decedent’s loved ones who have been left to bear the brunt of the emotional and financial fallout is important.

The Tangible and Intangible

As you might expect, valuing a life under the wrongful death statute is not a simple matter. There are several factors to be taken into consideration and each factor is unique to the person who died.

(Note: we are not talking here about an “estate claim” which is the claim decedent’s estate can bring to recover for things like decedent’s pain and suffering or funeral expenses etc.)

In Georgia, the statute allows for recovery for the “full value of life of the decedent.”

According to caselaw, which recognizes that a person’s life is invaluable and that there is no fixed formula for calculating a person’s life, that life is measured, not from the value those left behind would put on that life, but from the value his or her life was to the person who died. In other words, it is measured from the deceased’s point of view.

To measure a person’s life, then, the courts look at and weigh evidence of the tangible and intangible aspects of life that make it valuable to that person.

The tangible value of a person’s life looks at the economic aspects of one’s life. Among other things, this can be factors such as:

  • decedent’s income/job at the time of death
  • his (or her) age at the time of death
  • his/her health
  • potential for making more money
  • life expectancy
  • the value of decedent’s contributions/services to others: like cooking, washing, raising children etc.

The range of intangible (or non-economic) aspects of a life are as many and as varied as each individual. They can include consideration by the jury of factors such as:

  • decedent’s relationships
  • interests/hobbies/sports
  • leisure activities
  • living conditions
  • things that were important to the decedent like children, family, church
  • and more.

As you might expect, there is no set formula in Georgia for arriving at a “full value of life” for a person. That is why having the assistance of experienced personal injury counsel is so important.

While a price can never be put on a life, it is critical, especially in situations where a person’s death was caused by another’s negligence, to compensate those left behind by considering the full value of a family’s loss.

Personal Injury Attorneys in Cumming, Georgia. 

The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C., are here to help you. We serve clients in Atlanta, and in a number of counties throughout Georgia, including: Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, and Paulding County, among others.  To find out how we can help you, call us at: 770-888-7707. Or contact us here.

 

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