In Georgia, patients who suffer harm from medical malpractice are entitled to compensatory damages. These damages include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and in death cases, the full value of the patient’s life. The word compensatory comes from Latin, meaning to weigh or balance one thing against another. So, Georgia juries are instructed to calculate their verdict in an amount that balances, or equals the patient’s harm. This is pretty simple for medical expenses shown on a patient’s hospital bills, or lost wages based on their paychecks before the malpractice.
But what about pain and suffering? Or the value of the patient’s life? Most people would agree with the philosopher, “The really important things are not houses and lands, stocks and bonds, automobiles and real estate, but friendships, trust, confidence, empathy, mercy, love and faith.”
Georgia law also agrees, and instructs jurors to return a dollar amount verdict for pain and suffering using only “the enlightened conscience of fair and impartial jurors” as their measure. “Questions of whether, how much, and how long the plaintiff has suffered or will suffer are for you to decide.”
Georgia law specifically instructs jurors to calculate the verdict amount by considering:
Interference with normal living and enjoyment of life;
Loss of capacity to labor and earn money;
Impairment of bodily health and vigor;
Fear of extent of injury;
Shock of impact;
Actual pain and suffering;
The extent to which the plaintiff must limit activities.
-All using their “enlightened conscience as impartial jurors.” There is no book or master rule for the jury to follow, and they bring their own judgment to the courtroom to come up with a verdict amount.
If the medical malpractice aggravates or worsens a medical problem the patient already had, they can still recover damages for aggravation of the preexisting condition, with the jury using the same instructions.
When a Georgia patient dies from medical malpractice, their family members have a “wrongful death” claim for the “full value” of the patient’s life, also determined in the “enlightened conscience of the jury.” This is a very broad concept, meaning what the person’s life was worth from their own perspective.
Georgia juries are given wide latitude in calculating compensatory damages in medical malpractice cases for injuries or death. This makes it very important to hire a lawyer who knows how to effectively convey all of your damages to the jury, and to remind them that when a patient loses the really important things, the verdict should be many times greater than their hospital bills and lost paychecks.