Six years later, woman still suffering from drunk driving incident

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | July 29, 2020 5:05 AM

On June 23, 2014, Samantha Stover of Columbia Falls bent over on the side of South Hilltop Road to look at a cat that had been killed.

She was struck by drunk driver operating a rental truck.

Six years later, Stover is still suffering the ill effects of that accident. She suffered multiple life-threatening injuries. The rental truck’s bumper hit her in the head. The driver of the truck, Susan Pajnich, of Kalispell, spent time in prison for the offense according to state Department of Corrections records, but Stover isn’t even close to being whole again.

Stover said she received about $25,000 in an insurance settlement in the case and has been unable to work since. She suffers seizures and nerve problems from the accident, including severe nerve damage in her face called trigeminal neuralgia.

It’s a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from one’s face to the brain. Even mild stimulation of the face — such as from brushing one’s teeth or putting on makeup — may trigger a jolt of excruciating pain.

“Air touching my face is painful,” she said. “Anything I put in my mouth I can feel in my eyeball.”

She also suffers from seizures and post traumatic stress disorder, as she has flashbacks of the lights of the truck and the bumper hitting her head.

She used to be a “workaholic,” she said. Holding down several jobs before the accident, now she can’t work at all.

She used to do a lot of volunteer work in the community, now she relies on others for help. Friends are letting her live in her camper in their yard in rural Columbia Falls and she relies on food stamps for food. She was getting crime victim’s compensation, but that money has run out. She said she’s trying to get disability payments, but that process has been slow at best and she’s been turned down before.

“I’m living on food stamps and the grace of other people,” she said. She has many thanks for those who have helped, including local churches and civic groups. But coronavirus has taken its toll on services.

For example, she used to be able to go to a shelter to shower, but it’s been closed down and she now just gets some hand-out hygiene products.

She’s a living example of what can happen to victims of drunk drivers.

“I keep feeling like I can’t handle it anymore,” she said.

She said she simply needs some help until she can get disability. She has received virtually nothing from Pajnich, who has since been released from prison.

Folks who can help Stover can email her at sjinmontana@yahoo.com