I am handling a wrongful death case for a Georgia family where the death occurred in California and it is stunning how much less favorable California law is for the family of the deceased. I represent the children of a deceased 35 year old who was run down by a tractor trailer as he walked down a lonely stretch of highway late at night. From the police investigation and photographs, we determined that the trucker hit the young man from behind and that the truck had swerved several feet over the fog line when it struck him.
As a Georgia wrongful death lawyer handling an out-of-state wrongful death case, we always associate excellent local counsel. On this particular case, the firm of Howarth and Smith has been handling the California wrongful death legal issues while our firm develops the value of the life components and the engineering aspects.
As we have discussed previously, there are two claims that can be brought for wrongful death in Georgia; the claim held by the estate of the deceased and the claim held by the statutory claimants. We don’t typically think of Georgia as a liberal state, but when contrasted with California law, it is clear that Georgia legislators value the soul more than their left coast counterparts.
For example, in Georgia, the value of the life is decided from the perspective of the deceased. What did they dream about and aspire to? Were they good parents and spouses? Did they take pleasure in giving to their community? Georgia recognizes that the value of a human life is weighed by what the person put into their days. It is not just an economic analysis.
In California however, the only thing the jury can do is award the economic value for the lost life to the dependents, reduced to present day value. There can be no discussion of the soul or a life well lived. Put bluntly, it is cheap to kill poor people. I was astonished to read the California Appellate cases because we normally think of the 9th Circuit as flamingly liberal and yet here it is. On the question of the value of human life, California tails far behind Georgia. I am acutely aware of the drastic difference that the legislature can make on what a jury can consider but the differences between Georgia law and California law are staggering.