Tabernash victim of drinking and driving accident faces financial challenges |

Tabernash victim of drinking and driving accident faces financial challenges

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Emily Papendieck of Tabernash was hit by a drunk driver six months ago and is still paying the price ” literally.

Not only was the 28-year-old injured in the accident; she is responsible for paying thousands of dollars worth of medical bills.

Papendieck has been working two jobs to help cover some of the expenses.

“The insurance is refusing to pay,” she said. “I owe like $7,000 in medical bills ” it’s crazy.”

The insurance belongs to the other driver’s friend’s mother, who lives in Kansas City. The insurance company wants to take Papendieck to court in Arkansas, so they don’t have to pay the bills, she said.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Papendieck’s boyfriend, Joe Cuss. “She was hit by a drunk driver, and she’s getting punished. That blew me away that she got summoned.”

Papendieck said she didn’t realize she didn’t have coverage for herself, either. Her health insurance helped pay for a CT scan, MRI, and physical therapy, but did not help her with the ambulance or hospital bills.

“I have like eight different places where I am paying bills,” she said. “My lawyer is just trying to prove that this insurance company has to pay me. Maybe that will happen someday.”

Papendieck has lived in Grand County for four years and has been a waitress at The Pub in Winter Park for about a year and a-half. She graduated from Metropolitan State College of Colorado in May.

The person who hit her, and then fled the scene, didn’t have a license and was “high and drunk,” Papendieck said.

The drunk driver’s sentencing date is June 26. He’s in his mid-20s and is being charged for “fleeing the scene,” she said.

On Dec. 1, she was driving home from The Pub around 11:30 p.m. when she saw a vehicle between Fraser and Winter Park “and realized he wasn’t going to stop.”

“I couldn’t stop in time and just slammed on my brakes,” she said.

Papendieck remembers him asking if she was going to be OK at the scene. When he was told she wouldn’t be, “he ran to the woods,” she said.

Fraser-Winter Park Police Officer Dodd Jacobsen called her boyfriend right away.

Cuss said his heart sank when he arrived at the scene.

“I was really scared,” he said. “Based on the condition her car I thought she could be dead or seriously (injured.)”

Her blood was all over when he went to talk to her in the ambulance, he said.

“I’m just thankful that she is with us. That she’s alive,” he said. “He (the drunk driver) made a really bad choice. He’s going to have to live with it the rest of his life.”

Papendieck’s life has changed after the accident.

“I couldn’t drive for a couple weeks because I had head issues,” she said. “I wasn’t able to snowboard at all this winter … I don’t think I’ll be able to play soccer at all this summer.”

Due to the accident, she tore her MCL, had bad whiplash, was getting sick from “bad” headaches and her nose was swollen after hitting the air bag. She also had insomnia for three months, and was only averaging about three hours of sleep a night.

“I’d lay in bed and think about it, and all the stuff I still needed to do,” Papendieck said, adding that the accident happened a week before finals and her medicine wasn’t helping. “I wish I could have left (the bar) five minutes sooner, or five minutes later so it wouldn’t have happened.”

She knew the police officers who arrived to the scene, and her ER nurse.

“Grand County EMS (Emergency Medical Services) has been awesome to me. Very understanding, very helpful,” she added. “Having people know me felt really special.

“It’s helped me work on my optimistic side. I can’t think about all these bills. I just think it could be a lot worse and I’m not going to give up hope until I know that nothing’s going to be covered.”

Papendieck knows people who have gotten in their cars after drinking.

“This was kind of a big wake up (call) for them, because sometimes getting caught by the police is not the worst thing that could happen. You could end up hurting somebody and not only affecting your life but affecting someone else’s life too.”

She’s coping with the medical expenses and getting her life back together day-by-day.

“Sometimes it gets me down,” she said. “I’m just trying to have faith.”

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