Understanding Liability in Truck Accidents: A Guide for South Carolina Residents

Hugh McAngus, Attorney, Carolina Law Group, Greenville, SC
Hugh McAngus. | Attorney

In typical car accident cases, determining liability often comes down to this: Which driver(s) caused the accident?

Truck accident cases are different.

In accidents involving a large truck like a tractor-trailer (aka a big rig, 18-wheeler, or semi), the question of liability is not so straightforward. Here’s what’s involved in determining liability after a large truck accident.

Who Is Liable in a Large Truck Accident? Possible At-Fault Parties

Determining liability in a truck accident versus passenger car accidents is different (and often much more challenging) because any one or more of the following parties may be found wholly or partially liable for the accident:

Driver(s). The driver(s) of the truck or the other vehicle(s) involved may be found liable. Driver error is a significant cause of truck accidents – a 2006 report to Congress from the DOT, “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” stated that driver reasons accounted for 87% of “critical reasons” leading to the accidents studied (PDF). However, other parties may also have contributed to the accident even if driver error was the proximate cause.

Trucking Company. The truck driver’s employer may be found liable, too. The majority of truck drivers are employed by a trucking company which carries insurance covering their drivers in most situations.

Truck Manufacturer. Some accidents are not the result of a driver’s error but stem from problems with the truck itself. The manufacturer of the truck or its parts may be found liable if a defect contributed to the accident.

Parties Responsible for Maintenance. Under federal law, commercial trucks must be maintained to certain standards on a strict schedule. If the accident was the result of lack of maintenance or bad maintenance, the parties responsible for the maintenance may be found liable for the accident, too.

Parties Responsible for Loading Cargo. Improperly loaded cargo is occasionally a factor in a truck accident. In those cases, the parties who loaded the cargo could be found to be at fault.

This list is not exhaustive.

Apportioning Liability

In a truck accident, it’s common for multiple parties to be found partially responsible for the accident. Even the injured party or parties may be found liable. Apportioning liability is a key part of a truck accident case, as it affects who can recover damages and how much.

South Carolina is a modified comparative negligence state. This means even if an injured party is partly responsible for the accident, they may still recover damages as long as they did not contribute to the accident more than 50%.

Read more about comparative negligence in South Carolina here on our blog.  

Work with Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys

Determining and apportioning liability in a truck accident case is challenging; this is just one way in which large truck accident cases are different from passenger car accident cases. (Read more on our blog about how they’re different.) But the question of liability is vitally important to determining how much an injured party may recover.

If you’ve been injured in a large truck accident case in South Carolina, speak with a personal injury lawyer with experience handling truck accident cases. Truck accident cases are complex and often involve large amounts of money due to extensive injuries and damage. This is not the time to go it alone; this is the time to work with an experience truck accident lawyer who understands the unique challenges and is prepared to fight for you. The truck accident attorneys at The Carolina Law Group are ready to fight for you and get you the compensation you deserve. Call one of the numbers below to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.

The Carolina Law Group has four offices in South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.312.4444) & West Columbia (principal office; call 803.881.1110).

Call us at one of our four offices or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys. Our business hours are Monday – Thursday 8:30am – 5:30pm & Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm. Weekend and evening hours by appointment only. Our Greenville, SC law firm offers Spanish, Hindi, and Gujarati language translation services for your convenience.


Hugh received his BA magna cum laude from the University of South Carolina – Columbia in 2001 and his JD magna cum laude from the University of South Carolina in 2006. Hugh brings with him fifteen years of litigation experience in the Carolinas with a focus on ​trucking collisions, serious motor vehicle collisions, and complex litigation. His clients come to him after experiencing a traumatic and often life-changing event, which he’s able to help them through while pursuing a fair and just outcome in their case.

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