As a southern Illinois semi truck accident lawyer, I was dismayed to read about a fatal accident allegedly caused by a semi truck near the border of Illinois and Iowa on Interstate 80. The trucker who allegedly caused the wreck was employed by trucking company VGS Express, which has nearly the worst record of compliance with trucking regulations that any company can have. Possibly as a result, an accident took the life of Abby Lynn Vermeire, 24, just weeks before her wedding. The same accident injured her fiance, Erik Hayek, a passenger, and another driver, Jacob Harris.
According to news reports, Hryhoriy Kozachok, 53, of Brooklyn, N.Y, was driving a semitrailer for VGS Express on I-80 near Davenport, Iowa when police records say he tried to make an unsafe and illegal U-turn from the eastbound to the westbound lanes of the highway. Hayek, 30, and Vermeire, 24, both of Bettendorf, Iowa, were in a car that ran into and then under the 18-wheeler. Their car was then rear-ended by an SUV driven by Harris, 19, of East Moline. Vermeire, the front-seat passenger in the car, was taken to Genesis Medical Center in Davenport and was pronounced dead about 24 hours later. Hayek, who was Vermeire’s fiancé, and an unidentified backseat passenger were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Harris was treated and released.
VGS Express has one of the worst records in the country for compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration driver regulations. On a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the best and 100 being the worst, the FMCSA rates the company a 99.64. Over the last 30 months, VGS violated driver regulations 100 times, including ones regarding log books; driving while disqualified, ill or fatigued; and requirements that drivers speak English. VGS drivers violated regulations far more often than drivers for other companies: 21% of VGS drivers were in violation, compared with 6.6% nationally. The company’s score for vehicle inspection only barely clears a “deficient” rating and is several percentage points higher than the national average, with 72 vehicle violations over the last 30 months. Those problems include failing to secure vehicle equipment, flat tires, defective brakes and broken turn signals, among others. Drivers and vehicles that violate these regulations are taken “out of service,” or off the road, until the problems are corrected. Thanks to this accident, the FMCSA will do a compliance audit of the company, reviewing its driver log books, licenses, medical certificates, maintenance records and results of random drug and alcohol tests.
This record suggests that VGS has been given many, many second chances to uphold its legal responsibilities to drive safely and avoid endangering other drivers — yet it has continued to violate important safety regulations. As a Missouri tractor-trailer crash attorney, I am concerned that the FMCSA is unable to protect the public from negligent truckers and trucking companies. Truckers who violate regulations as frequently as VGS apparently does are choosing to put others in harm’s way, and those who get hurt should not have to suffer in silence. Victims like the ones from this accident have had their lives turned upside down through no fault of their own. All of the victims of this accident will have a long road to emotional and physical recovery from this crash, and Hayek has called off his wedding for the most reason imaginable. In addition, the victims will probably see their financial costs mount as they undergo medical treatments, lose income from having to take time away from work and replace their vehicles that were totaled in the crash. It’s only fair to require that those who caused the wreck with their recklessness pay for the costs.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we specialize in making sure that victims receive all that they should, that those who caused their suffering are held responsible. Anyone who has been involved in a serious accident with a semi trailer should contact our St. Louis semi truck collision attorneys right away. Even when it’s not legal to do so, shady trucking companies or their insurers could destroy evidence related to the accident, and it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side to see that the accident investigation is conducted appropriately. In addition, an attorney will help victims make sure that they don’t sign away their rights to receive full compensation from the trucker’s insurance company. It’s important to avoid accepting a settlement offered by an insurance company without having consulted an attorney, since accepting it forecloses your ability to get more money if you discover later that your injuries are more serious and long-lasting than you had realized at the time.
If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one because of the carelessness of a semi truck driver or trucking company, please let Carey, Danis & Lowe help you. We offer free, confidential consultations. To set one up, please contact us online or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400.