Georgia Law: What is a Life Worth?

Wrongful death lawsuits are an unfortunate but realistic part of personal injury law and every state’s wrongful death laws vary. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation in which you’re seeking an attorney for a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a loved one, it is important to hire a knowledgeable and experienced Georgia wrongful death lawyer to represent your best interests.

In the state of Georgia, the measure of damages in wrongful death law is known as the “full value of life”. Specifically, statute 51-4-1 states “the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence” must be observed from the point of view of the deceased and decided by the “enlightened conscience of a jury.” This “full value of life” includes two parts:

  • Economic - including the present value of the loss of future earnings, not withholding expense or tax deductions for the decedent. Factors such as physical well-being, age, income, type and value of work performed, and more are considered by jurors to determine the economic value of life of the deceased. Once this has been calculated, this estimated economic value of life is decreased to present-day cash value with calculated interest of 5% annually.
  • Noneconomic/intangible – is not use contingent upon any one formula. There is no specific method to determine your lost loved one’s full value of the life. Jurors are instructed to determine the value by using their rational conscience, understanding and awareness of human relationships. They may study practically all details and circumstances that affected the subjective worth of a person’s life. Relationships, family circumstances, and living conditions may all be factors in determining the intangible value of life. These noneconomic aspects can also be established by using testimonies from friends and family.

Both economic and noneconomic aspects of the “full value of life” in Georgia wrongful death lawsuits can be determined by using life expectancy tables if jurors so choose. In some states recoveries of losses underwent by survivors are provided for (such as companionship, counsel, advice, etc. from the deceased), but Georgia law does not offer those recovery options. Fortunately, though, the state of Georgia doesn’t impose a cap or strict formula on the value of life like some other states do.

In the event that you have lost a loved one and wish to pursue legal damages for loss, you may also have a claim for punitive expenses such as pain and suffering, medical, and funeral expenses. Ultimately, it is imperative that you contact an experienced wrongful death attorney if you are considered a legal claim.