When the intentional or negligent actions of another lead to death, certain
family members of the deceased may be entitled to recover damages in a
wrongful death lawsuit. According to Georgia law, in a wrongful death case, a spouse or child
may recover “the value of the life of the decedent as shown by the
evidence.” This value may include both economic damages as well
as non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. In many instances,
a significant portion of damages sought in a wrongful death claim will
include lost future earnings.
A jury in a wrongful death case may award an amount equivalent to all income
that the decedent would have earned over his or her expected lifetime
had the decedent not been killed. This value may include salary and wages
from the decedent’s employer. It may also include the value of other
benefits the deceased would have accrued, such as employee benefits, pensions,
investment returns, or the like. Because such an award in a wrongful death
case includes future earnings, the amount of the award will be discounted
to a present value. In Georgia, courts will calculate this present value
by discounting future earnings by five percent.
What if the Deceased was Unemployed?
If the decedent was unemployed at the time of death, the spouse or children
of the deceased may still recover lost future earnings. Juries are permitted
to consider the age, education, health, work history, and other circumstances
of the decedent when considering whether to award damages for lost future
earnings. Thus, damages may be awarded even in instances where the decedent
was a child, a student, disabled, or even incarcerated at the time of
death. Additionally, juries may consider evidence that suggests the decedent
would have likely received a promotion or otherwise advanced in his or
her career so as to award future earnings greater than what the decedent
was earning at the time of death.
What if the Deceased was a Child?
Although difficult to determine precisely what a child would have earned
over the course of a lifetime, juries may consider evidence that generally
suggests what the child’s earning power would have been. Such evidence
may include statistics or trends that suggest the earning potential of
people similarly situated.
What About the Stay At Home Spouse?
A spouse who stays at home to care for children, or otherwise take care
of the home, does not earn an income per se. However, Georgia law recognizes
that such spouses provide important services that have an economic value.
In a wrongful death action, spouses or children may recover the economic
value of household, childcare, and other services that the deceased would
have provided during the course of his or her life. Such economic value
may also include care given to an elderly or disabled relative.
Getting Help After the Loss of Your Loved One
If the intentional or negligent actions of another has caused the death
of your loved one, you should
contact a wrongful death attorney immediately. An experienced wrongful death attorney
can review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a viable
claim. If so, they can help you seek the compensation you deserve.