Little in life is more difficult than losing the life of a loved one, particularly when that loss may be due to the negligent or intentional acts of another. Many people struggle with how to demonstrate the value of the loss they are suffering in a wrongful death case.
Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
Under Georgia law, a claimant in a wrongful death case is entitled to the full value of the decedent’s life. In practical matters, this means that claimants are entitled to two categories of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages often include the wages and other income that the deceased would have earned during his or her lifetime. It also may include expenses such as funeral costs and medical bills (e.g., relating to the decedent’s death). Non-economic damages include less tangible losses such as the decedent’s pain and suffering before death and the quality of the decedent’s life. In most cases, a jury decides how much a claimant shall receive based on the evidence presented.
Proving Non-Economic Damages
A claimant in a wrongful death case has the burden of proving that the other party is liable for the death of the decedent. Likewise, the claimant has the burden of proving the amount and type of damages suffered. Under Georgia law, the value of human life is to be viewed and valued from the perspective of the deceased person. How does one go about proving such value? As one may expect, this task is difficult. The following keys can help a jury to grasp the value of a person’s life is challenging:
- Tell a story – A key to helping a jury to understand the value of a decedent’s life is to help the jury understand who the decedent was. What were his or her hopes and dreams? Goals and interests? What were the decedent’s proudest accomplishments? What types of things did the decedent still hope to do over the course of his or her life? Painting a picture of the decedent’s life can help a jury more fully understand the value of the decedent’s life and the scope of loss experienced by loved ones.
- Use the decedent’s own words – Often the strongest tool to helping a jury properly value the decedent’s life are the decedent’s own words. Claimants should consider using any letters, journal entries, or other writings that tell of the decedent’s life. Video recordings, including video casts and home movies, are also great tools.
- Rely on those who knew the decedent best – Another type of evidence that may be useful to juries in wrongful death cases is testimonial evidence. Having those who knew and loved the decedent take the stand to tell of the decedent’s life can provide powerful evidence as to the quality of that life.
The Importance of Gathering Evidence Right Away
Any claimant in a wrongful death case will want to preserve any evidence that may be helpful should the parties involved end up in court. This evidence may include photographs, videos, journals, letters, poems, personal belongings, awards, or the like. Often social media and email accounts provide rich information as to the life, interests, goals, and passions of the decedent. Claimants in wrongful death cases should understand, however, that such evidence may not be around forever. Especially in our digital age, a failed hard drive can wipe away years of important information.
Getting the Help of an Experienced Georgia Attorney
If you have lost the life of a loved one, it is essential that you speak with a skilled Atlanta wrongful death attorney right away. The lawyers at Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLC, have years of experience helping those who have suffered the loss of a family member. We can answer your questions, help you gather evidence, explain the law, and determine a legal strategy that will help you hold those responsible for you loss accountable. Contact us today.