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Full Value of Life Analysis in Wrongful Death Claims

Personal injury law suits in Georgia can arise in virtually any setting. When death occurs as a result of the negligence of others a wrongful death action is created. The Georgia statute which defines the type of recovery permissible in this type of action is O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2. Under this statute the surviving spouse, child or children may recover for the homicide of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the decedent. O.C.G.A § 51-4-1 defines “full value of the life of the decedent” as the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he or she lived. The term “homicide” includes all cases in which the death of a human being results from a crime, from criminal or other negligence, or from property which has been defectively manufactured.

Survivors of the decedent are allowed to file suit to recover for damages to the same extent that the decedent could if he or she were still alive, (i.e. medical expenses, pain and suffering), as well as the full value of the life of the decedent. For many clients this concept of placing a monetary value on the life of a loved one is difficult to grasp. However, it is the method which Georgia uses to resolve these type of negligence based actions in as equitable a fashion as possible. Generally, a major contributor to this full value of life determination is the earning potential of the decedent. In other words, how much money would the deceased have made throughout the remainder of their expected life? Since the surviving spouse and children are the immediate beneficiaries, it is the amount of money which they would have reasonably expected to assist them with maintainig their lifestyle. Income can include salary, pensions, investments, benefits and any other source of income. In addition, there is also a non-quantitative/ intangible component of this life value determination. Georgia also considers things such as the enjoyment of a marital relationship, family relationships and other life experiences and allows an enlightened jury to take that into consideration when placing a monetary value on the loss.

Death can occur in any setting where someone can be injured. Car accidentsmedical malpracticemotorcycle accidentsnursing home neglectpremises liability and truck accidents can all involve wrongful death actions. As with these types of personal injury cases, wrongful death actions have a statute of limitations of two years. Law suits claiming wrongful death must be brought within two years from the date of the death. The exception to this would be a wrongful death action against a government agency which would trigger much shorter statute limitation time periods, (i.e., 6 to 12 months depending on the type of agency). Additionally, the surviving spouse may have a loss of consortium claim which would expire after 4 years.

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one due to negligence or a criminal act you need to ensure that all of your rights are protected. Douglasville Personal Injury Lawyers offers free consultations on wrongful death and other injury related matters.