A woman who has been in at least 10 car accidents in just over a decade will receive $187,896.30 after she was T-boned in Richmond.
Ranita Afshar took Sui Ping Gu to court after Gu T-boned the driver’s side of her vehicle near the intersection of Westminster Highway and No. 5 Road in 2018.
The accident occurred before the ICBC no-fault insurance came into effect, and Gu admitted liability.
According to Afshar, who was 35 at the time, her body was “thrown backward on impact.” She added the accident was “traumatizing” because she was hit on the driver’s side and felt she was “close to death.”
“She said she needed help exiting her vehicle and was carried by firemen to an ambulance,” wrote B.C. Supreme Court justice Karen Douglas in a decision issued this week.
However, records from the Emergency Health Services stated Afshar had “self-extricated” after the accident.
Both vehicles were written off after the accident.
Afshar was discharged from Richmond Hospital within a few hours but said she was “in a lot of pain” the day after the accident.
After the accident, Afshar complained of pain in various parts of her body including her neck, shoulders, arms, mid-back and lower body. She also reported headaches that would progress into migraines as well as a cracking sound in her jaw and emotional problems.
She told the court she felt numbness in her fingers and continued to experience pain and headaches, as well as poor sleep and a worsened emotional state by the second half of 2019.
She added that by 2020, her pain and sleep issues remained and she had migraine headaches once or twice a week and threw up daily. She also reported her emotional state got worse.
Afshar was involved in at least eight accidents prior to the Richmond incident, including three in 2013. She then had what appeared to be her 10th accident when she was rear-ended in a “high-speed collision” in 2021.
Since the accident, she has had “extensive treatment” which included more than 200 visits to her family physician, physiotherapy, chiropractic therapy and counselling between 2018 and 2022, in addition to attending other clinics and specialists.
Afshar told the court that, by 2022, she no longer engaged in the same activities she used to enjoy, including bowling, attending family gatherings, and going to the movies, park and beach.
Gu, the driver responsible for the Richmond crash, denied the accident had caused Afshar’s ongoing physical and mental health problems, pointing to Afshar’s pre-existing psychological condition, injuries from previous accidents and the subsequent accident in 2021.
Crash victim ‘unreliable’: Judge
When assessing the credibility and reliability of the evidence before her, Douglas said Afshar was “a poor historian and an unreliable witness.”
Douglas found Afshar had a “vague recollection” of material events, provided “consistently inaccurate” history to the experts assessing her and distorted her pre-accident work history, hence undermining her credibility in court.
“The trial evidence supports the conclusion that Ms. Afshar is heavily focused on her symptoms and that she has a heightened and distorted perception of her own disability,” Douglas added.
“I am unable to rule out the possibility of financial gain providing an unconscious motive for Ms. Afshar.”
Douglas agreed with medical experts that Afshar had “a pre-accident vulnerability to the physical and psychological effects of trauma” and concluded Afshar had not fully recovered from previous accidents in the one year leading up to the Richmond accident.
She also found it was improbable the accident in 2021, which happened after the Richmond crash, had no lasting negative impact on Afshar, adding that Afshar began using a four-wheeled walker after that accident.
“I conclude that the 2021 accident probably worsened Ms. Afshar’s physical and mental health and either aggravated an old knee injury or caused a new bilateral knee injury,” wrote Douglas.
Douglas concluded Afshar is “significantly disabled,” she is more withdrawn and less socially engaged and her symptoms related to the accident made her feel like she failed her family.
However, she does not agree that Afshar “enjoyed robust physical and mental health before the accident” because she was “not competitively employed” and experienced psychological and physical difficulties beforehand.
She found the Richmond accident triggered Afshar’s pre-existing vulnerability and aggravated pre-existing soft tissue injuries, headache pain and bilateral knee pain.
She also found the Richmond accident caused or contributed to post-traumatic stress disorder, a depressive disorder, symptoms of anxiety, a chronic pain syndrome and undiagnosed temporomandibular joints symptoms.
Although Gu tried to argue Afshar failed to mitigate her damages by not persisting with medical treatment and pursuing active rehabilitation, Douglas disagreed, attributing Afshar’s resistance to her “chronic pain syndrome and psychological condition.”
Afshar sought damages adding up to $1,387.846.30, including $850,000 for the future loss of earning capacity.
Douglas declined to award Afshar for the future loss of earning capacity, concluding Afshar’s current condition would not have been materially different now if the accident hadn’t happened.
She also found there was “no real and substantial possibility” that Afshar would have returned to work outside the home in 2018 considering her young children, her husband’s long hours of work in his new business, his need for her help and her share of domestic responsibilities.
Afshar was ultimately awarded $187,896.30 in total for general damages, special damages, net past loss of income and future care costs.