The vast majority of all civil cases, including those in Georgia, end with a determination and an award of damages. The exact nature of the damages received will depend on the type of case that is being heard and what the plaintiff request. Often times, what damages boils down to is a monetary award based off of compensatory or punitive. A wrongful death judgment can include an award for damages based off of one or both theories.
Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim for their loss or injury. Because they are meant as compensation the damages have to trace back to the injured party and their loss. In a wrongful death lawsuit compensatory losses can be financial and non-financial in nature. Financial losses are generally determined by the circumstances of the victim at the time of their death. Calculations for financial losses include items, such as loss of wages, loss of inheritance, medical bills, damage to property and a host of other actually losses. These calculations can become complex when factors such as life expectancy, earning capacity, intelligence and other factors are considered.
Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their actions rather than compensate the victim for their loss. This means that the award does not financially trace back to the injured party and is based off the punishment or deterrent effect it has on the defendant. Many civil cases either bar or do not award punitive damages in most types of civil cases. Because it is used as punishment this class of damages is normally reserved for cases when the defendant was recklessly negligent or showed intent to do harm to the victim.
State law governs the matter of what damages can be allied to a case. Georgia and a number of other states allows for punitive damages to be considered in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Source: Findlaw.com, “Wrongful Death overview,” accessed on Sept. 15, 2014