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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Personal Injury > How Do You Value a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?

How Do You Value a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?


A wrongful death lawsuit allows the relatives of a deceased person to seek compensation from those persons or legal entities responsible for their loved one’s death. In this context, compensation is meant to cover the value of the life of the deceased. But what exactly does this mean? And how do you actually value a life in this manner?

Proving the “Intangible Elements” in Determining a Person’s Life

Georgia law handles wrongful death claims a bit differently than most states. In other states, wrongful death claims are typically valued from the standpoint of the survivors. For example, if a wife files a wrongful death claim, she can seek compensation for the loss of her husband’s love and companionship, as well as his financial support. But in Georgia, the law requires a court to value the life of the deceased from their perspective and not that of any other family members.

A 2002 decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Brock v. Wedincamp, explained this state’s approach to wrongful death claims in greater detail. In Brock, a woman (the decedent) died in a car accident. The legal representative of the decedent’s son filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent driver. The defense sought to introduce evidence regarding the decedent’s sex life and parenting history. The defense maintained this evidence was necessary to show, among other things, that the plaintiff’s lifestyle reduced her “life expectancy” and was thus a relevant factor in valuing her life.

The trial court shut down the defense on this issue, and the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. The appellate court noted that Georgia’s wrongful death law was amended in 1878 to specify the measure of damages in such cases was the “full value of the life of the deceased, as shown by the evidence.” Historically, courts looked to a decedent’s lost future income as a key factor in valuing their life. But this did not address situations such as minor children or parents who did not work outside of the home. Eventually, Georgia courts decided that juries must also consider an “intangible element incapable of exact proof” when measuring compensation “from the decedent’s point of view.”

With respect to the specific issue raised in the Brock case, the Court of Appeals noted that the defendants wanted to “unfairly devalue the decedent’s life to the jury by focusing on her sex life,” which was irrelevant to the “value of her life to herself.”

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

Wrongful death claims are, by their very nature, emotionally charged for the family members involved. It is therefore important to seek competent legal advice from an experienced Dunwoody personal injury lawyer. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.



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