Monday 27 January 2020

Woman awarded €256k after suffering PTSD after being knocked down by car

Cheng Zhang (36) pictured leaving the Four Courts after she was awarded €256,000 damages following a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Cheng Zhang (36) pictured leaving the Four Courts after she was awarded €256,000 damages following a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A 36-year old Chinese woman who suffered post traumatic stress disorder after she was knocked down by a car on a Dublin street has been awarded over €256,000 by a High Court judge.

The total award to Cheng Zhang by Mr Justice Anthony Barr was €465,526 but this was reduced as contributory negligence on her part was assessed at 45pc as she had crossed the junction when the pedestrian light showed red.

The judge said as a result of the accident Ms Zhang became profoundly mentally unwell and could no longer work. She lost her only source of income and fell in to rent arrears, became homeless and needed local authority emergency accommodation.

Mr Justice Barr said given the level of intelligence, ambition and high level functioning which Ms Zhang demonstrated prior to the accident, he was satisfied that but for the accident she would in all probability have gone on to qualify as a certified accountant and would have secured full employment.

Ms Zhang who is from the Liaoning province of China came to Ireland in 2003 to study English  and at the time of the accident was studying accountancy.

She had sued the driver of the car Stephen Farrell of Shelbourne Park Apartments,  Ringsend, Dublin as a result of the accident  April 17 2011. Ms Zhang, a trainee accountant was crossing at the junction of Merrion Row and Merrion Street Upper when she was hit by a car which was turning left from Merrion Street Upper into Merrion Row. She was thrown in the air.

 She claimed she suffered soft tissue injury to her knees and pelvis and a  blow to the head  and that she was unable to move or communicate for about an hour after the accident.

She also claimed she went on to develop severe and persisting mental illness in the form of post traumatic stress disorder  as well as the condition fibromyalgia.

The other side claimed Ms Zhang had a myriad of physical complaints for which no organic basis could be found and that she now suffers from an anxiety disorder.

Mr Justice Barr accepted the evidence of Ms Zhang's psychiatrist that she suffered extensive and extreme mental health issues triggered by the road accident  and that following the accident there was a catastrophic change to her mental state.

He also accepted the evidence of the psychiatrist  Ms Zhang's symptoms are severe , chronic and enduring despite treatment efforts to date.

The judge who said he had the opportunity of observing Ms Zhang who represented herself said she had an excellent command of English and and excellent knowledge of the paperwork in the case. He said she was able to deal with lengthy and robust cross examination at the hands of very experienced senior counsel  and was "totally alone" as a lay litigant.

"For a Chinese national for whom English is not her first language, to be able to navigate the Irish legal system in such a way was very impressive," Mr Justice Barr said.

He added her ability to present her case was quite extraordinary and  and her ability to understand complex issues that arose in the course of litigation was remarkable.

By October 2016, the judge said, Ms Zhang was under severe  pressure from her landlord ,had no form of income from April 2011 and was reliant on whatever her mother could send her form her pension and her additional work in a Chinese clothing factory.

"When one considers how difficult it is for people to exist without any  form of regular income one has to come to the conclusion that in running her case Ms Zhang was displaying considerable resilience," he said.

She was, the judge said a woman of extraordinary intelligence and resilience  and he was satisfied she would at at some state in the future be able to make a gradual return to the workforce.

Mr Justice Barr said he was satisfied there were no mental health issues in Ms Zhang's pre accident history and he accepted her evidence she never suffered from any mental illness prior to the 2011 accident.

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