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How much is a human life worth?

No one can put a price tag on a human life, but families in Georgia who feel that they have legitimate cause to file a wrongful death lawsuit quickly discover how the legal system can try to determine a dollar value. According to an article published in Hawaii Business Magazine, these types of lawsuits are designed to compensate family members and dependents of the deceased for their economic loss. The article pointed out that tort law sets the value of an individual life according to that person's projected future income.

As an example, the article discussed the personal injury settlement the state of Hawaii paid out after the court ruled that it was liable for the deaths of a California attorney and her cousin after they were killed in a hiking accident on a poorly marked trail. The discrepancy between the two payouts is stunning. The family of the attorney, who was a rising partner in a prominent law firm, received $15 million. The family of the cousin, who was a Columbian national, received $425,000 minus legal fees.

The legal definition of wrongful death is the loss of life resulting from another party's negligent or deliberate behavior. This can encompass a number of scenarios, from a failure of the state to ensure that recreational facilities are safe, careless monitoring of a playground on county property or a drunk driver's disregard of others' safety. Compensation to the victim's family could include medical and funeral expenses and possibly punitive damages.

Georgia law states only certain individuals have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Those individuals are the spouse, children or parents of the deceased or the executor of the deceased's estate. There are stipulations to these rules, so families needing advice may find that speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer could be beneficial.

Source: Hawaii Business, "What's It Worth: A Human Life", Dennis Hollier, June 07, 2013

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