You both work. You both have long commutes to and from Atlanta every day. Picking up the children from school and taking them to practice was nearly impossible before Interstate 85 collapsed, but now … don’t even think about it. After much debate, and number crunching, you bite the bullet and decide to hire a nanny. After interviewing several candidates, you decide on the right one. She will pick up your children from school, make sure they complete their homework, feed them, and she will take them to practice for you. According to a well-known website designed to help you find a nanny, you get all of this for an average of $15.50 per hour. Money well spent.
One day, as you sit on I-75 North wondering whose idea it was to build a Major League Baseball stadium in the middle of your commute home, you get a phone call. It’s bad news. Your nanny caused a wreck while taking your children to baseball practice. Thankfully, your nanny and your children are OK. Unfortunately, the person in the other car had to be rushed to the hospital. You later learn that the injured person had to have surgery. What does all of this mean for you?
Under Georgia law, a special relationship is created when you hire a person to act on your behalf. This relationship is known as a “master servant” relationship. If the servant commits an act of negligence, such as causing a car wreck, while acting at the request of the master, such as taking the children to practice, the master can be held responsible for what the servant did. In other words, even though you were stuck in traffic when your nanny caused this wreck, you are the one who will ultimately be held responsible. Even worse, you may not have insurance to protect you in this instance.
There are a couple of ways you can protect yourself if you have a nanny (or even a babysitter) who takes your children places. If you have an extra car available, have your nanny use it. You will need to add your nanny to your car insurance policy, but then you will be covered for any wrecks she causes while shuttling the kids. An alternative is to require your nanny to carry high limits of car insurance. Many people offer to pay for their nanny’s coverage, to make sure it is always in place. The only caveat is that you have to make certain the car insurer is aware that your nanny will be using her vehicle as part of her job. Otherwise, a loss like the one mentioned above may not be covered. A quick call to your insurance agent is a good idea if you have, or are thinking about, hiring someone to shuttle your kids around town.
By Robert Tidwell, contributing writer and personal injury trial lawyer at The Tidwell Firm, LLC in Woodstock, Ga.