Nanny's Accident Causes Unforeseen Incident

Received Friday, February 6, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN I got fired today. And this is the worst possible time for this to happen to me. My husband was laid off about a month ago and we've been barely surviving on my income and what he gets from unemployment.

I was in a car accident with my charges. I was sitting at a traffic light at the bottom of a bridge and the kids were screaming and playing too loud in the back of the car so I turned around to hush them so I could drive and my foot slipped off of the brake pedal. I lurched forward and hit the car in front of me. I made a little dent, maybe about a foot long, in the other car and my employers big SUV had a tiny, barely noticeable scratch in the bumper. And the worst part? The driver of the other car jumped out and ran over screaming at me and calling me "stupid" and a bunch of other horrible names right in front of the kids, scaring them so much they started crying.

I called the Police and they got there pretty quickly. They took down all of the information and I thankfully didn't receive a ticket, I think because he felt sorry for me, I don't know. I'm sure I looked pretty frazzled. The Police officer was really nice to us, and helped me calm the kids down. He said the damage to the other car was probably going to cost about $1000 but the scratch on the SUV should only cost about $200-$300.

The Mom completely flipped out, and I know I can't blame her. She let me go right there on the spot and I didn't even get to hug or say good-bye to the kids. I've been there for over a year and I know they thought very highly of me. Losing my job with them hurts because I love those kids so much and they were such a great family to work for. I want to call my employer, but I don't know what to say. I wish there was something I could do, I feel so awful about all of this, and even though we don't have the money, I want to offer to pay for the damages somehow. Please help me!


FrmrNannyNowaMom said...

If I'm going to believe that people are generally nice and your employer falls into that category, thne im going to say maybe she just needs a chance to calm down. From what you described it really doesnt sound like that big of a deal and that she overreacted. Yes, it was your mistake, yes, she's worried about the children, yes, she now has a scratch in her big fancy car. However, you have been with them for a year and this is a minor incident. I would give it the weekend, call Monday, apologise again and see how receptive she is. I hope it works out for you, and in my opinion, if she doesnt take you back, shes just a bitch who's overreacting.

mom said...

Former nanny now a mom couldn't have echoed my sentiments any more perfectly. And yes, it would be nice to offer to pay the deductible for the accident. They may take it out of your pay anyway, which may well be their legal right. But if you beat them to the punch by giving her the weekend to calm down and then being a big enough person to apologize and offer to pay for your error, it may just give her the extra reasurance she needs to be sure that she flew off the handle and made a big mistake by letting such a great nanny as you go for such a minor, silly accident. (If she hsan't already realized that before you call and called herself to apologize...or if her husband doesn't get upset with her and make her call you in the meantime to ask you back.)

If she doesn't ask you back, I know it will hurt, but you're going to then have to just move on and put it behind you, knowing that you did your best and things sometimse just happen. Don't beat yourself up over it. (Sorry, but I have to clarify...this is your FIRST accident in their car, or while driving their children, right?)

Philly Nanny said...

I was in an fender-bender (my fault) in an employer's car a few years ago. Luckily, I was on my way home after dropping the kids off at camp, so they were not in the car.

I was also lucky that my employer was very understanding and didn't let me go. I immediately offered to take care of the repairs myself. I took the car to get repaired and arranged for a rental car while it was in the shop. I paid back the $600 (damages+rental) by having $150 deducted from my paycheck for 4 weeks.

I think that giving the mom the weekend to cool off is a great idea. Try speaking with her on monday. Apologize and offer to pay for the damages before she gets the chance to bring it up. Explain your financial situation and see if she is willing to work out a payment plan.

It's a difficult situation. I don't think I know anyone who has never had an accident, but it's a lot different when it's your own car/kids vs. when you're taking care of someone else's.

I don't have kids yet, so who knows, but hypothetically if a potential nanny told me this story and showed me her otherwise clean driving record, I don't think it would stop me from hiring her. Everyone makes mistakes, and they usually only serve to make you more cautious in the future.

Sorry this happened to you. Car accidents are so stressful, especially when they happen at work!

ericsmom said...

They are not nice people. This was an ACCIDENT. Thats what insurance is for. If she didn't want you to drive her kids around in their SUV they should get a taxi to do it.

No, No don't pay the deductible. Bad idea. They fired you so just let it go.

Ha! said...

If I were your I would write them a letter apologizing for the accident. That's all. As they fired you, you need not pay the deductible. However, if they rethink the situation and call you back and you accept, then offering some extra siting services to offest the deductible cost would be a sweet gesture on your part.
Best of luck OP!

SA said...

"I know they thought very highly of me."

Obviously not if they let you go so easily and worse, didn't let you say good bye to the children. The latter inexcusable in my eyes.

Your accident was perfectly understandable. You're a human being. It's not as if you were driving drunk, or speeding along the highway for the fun of it. These things happen.

I remember roughly four years ago, a little ice, a bit of overconfidence on my part - although I was under the speed limit, into a fence. I didn't have my charges with me that day, but could have.

"I want to offer to pay for the damages somehow."

NO! Don't do anything of the kind. You were doing your job, you're an agent of the principal (your employer), they are responsible under the law.

So follow the letter of the law.

If they hadn't let you go, I would have suggested offering to pay the deductible, but that isn't going to change anything here and it will just hurt you more.

SA said...

* This is one of those reasons I make every effort to avoid using a vehicle of my employers, opting for my own instead.

SA said...

** If this goes any further, consult a lawyer. Seriously, expensive as they are known to be, the consulting fees are usually pretty reasonable, like $25 to $50 reasonable. It'll save you a lot of heartache and of course don't take any legal advice from anyone except that lawyer. That includes ISYN, me, google, etc.

anothermom said...

Agree with FrmrNannyMom maybe give a whole week for the mom to cool down.

ericsmom said...


Using your own car and transporting your charges around is not a good idea. If you get in a serious accident, the family will go after you. Its better in the long run to use their car.

jada said...

Ericsmom beat me to the punch. I would NEVER transport my charges in my vehicle. Too much liabilty should something happen, and I would be screwed!

jada said...

...besides, my insurance rates would be astronomical. By itself, it's like $60 a mo., full coverage.

CrazyNannyOnTheRoad said...

Ok, I am no angel by any means. My insurance policy had been canceled due to non-payment. I needed 1 more month but the insurance company wouldn't give it to me.
Well, 1 week in, my Taurus station wagon was T-boned by a Volvo with the kids in the car. My car was totaled 3 days later. Thank God the kids were in awesome carseats (Breavia) and I was buckled up. We all went to the hospital both me and one of the kids had "side to side whiplash"
The owner of the Volvo was at fault and her insurance covered it all, thank God. I have never driven without insurance again. Oh, BTW I live in MA where insurance is mandatory. Both parents were like, there is never a dull moment with you around!

Another position, I locked my 2 year old charge in the car with the keys twice! I had to the police, the whole nine yards. Shortly after that I bought a car with OnStar!

chick said...

I agree that giving mom the weekend to cool off is a good idea. Then call Monday and appologize again.

I think this was a huge overreaction, unless you have had multiple accidents in the last year or something.

(I am also ever more grateful for the terrific people I work for. 1 year ago I was driving home (no kids) in the less than 3 year old SUV they provided for me to drive 24/7, and I made a left and got T-Boned. The SUV flipped, and was ultimately totaled. I was sure they would be furious, but they basically said: it sucks, it was an accident, you're OK and that's what matters. I offered to pay for the insurance increase, and that was refused.)

SA said...

ericsmom and jada,

The family couldn't go after me unless if I had done something particularly stupid/easily preventable, note easily preventable, and such would be the case with their vehicle as well. Their vehicle offers no extra protection.

The law considers an employer to be liable for an injury caused by an employee while doing their work. This is called "vicarious liability." Ergo, the law would see the family as responsible for the accident and not the nanny.

In OP's case this is true too, the law will see the family as responsible. The other party can sue the family and if their firing her was to cover their you know what, it was a bad move because it won't do any such thing.

Now, if regularly providing transportation is a part of the nanny's duties and the nanny gets into an accident, the nanny's insurance may see it as a business use and refuse to pay. That is really the only risk.

However, the difference in premium is actually rather small - I know, I pay it - and in many states often can be skirted by something as simple as not accepting mileage reimbursement.

Trust me, my grades in law classes are impeccable. :)

SA said...

Addendum to above:

In addition, it is often best to go with your own car. Beyond simply greater familiarity with the vehicle and inherently greater flexibility, it may prove cheaper if the nanny and family are really working as a team.

Here's why:
While the family's vehicle may be covered and as would any driver using it, there are often limitations to how long that applies.

Thus, if used by the nanny on a regular basis, the family may be forced to add the nanny to their insurance policy.

This usually would cost more overall than the nanny upgrading their policy. Thus it may prove beneficial, err, cheaper for a family to pay the difference between the nanny's old policy and the nanny's new policy. :)

jada said...

I like you! Where have you been all our lives? LOL - You give really sound advice on a lot of your posts and it's really cool having a Lawyer in the house for posts like these. :)

PinkNanny said...

Yikes! I feel for you. It sounds like there is a major lack of displine involving the children, which was of course the root of the problem.

Yes, it's your responsibility as the driver. But at the same time, it's kind of unfair for you to have to drive in the conditions of screaming and yelling. And it's not always easy to just pull over.

I know you feel bad, but you didn't deserve all that. Not only did you have to be in an accident, but you got yelled up (I'm surprised YOU didn't end up crying) you got fired, and on top of that you didnt' get to say goodbye. Ouch!

Here's the thing. This family knew when they lent you the car that there was a chance it could get damaged - much more than just a scratch.

I'm not ever sure if the mom was more upset over the car, or the accident, but did she even ask you if you were okay?

This is really tough, but I honestly think things happen for a reason. Maybe you were meant to work for a more caring family. I pray that something better comes your way very soon.

Confused said...

I am confused over the insurance issue. Doesn't your autoinsurance cover you as the driver no matte whose car you drive? I am not sure how driving your own car could be a disadvantage because if you damage it, you won't owe anyone.

WTF? said...

Insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. The employer was responsible for having coverage on their vehicle.

I think your employer sounds like a fkn b*tch, honestly. Accidents happen and this sounds like a very minor one. Obviously, driving the children around was a job duty. I can't believe she overreacted like that. How you treat someone when the chips are down shows your true character and your employer is lacking. As far as I'm concerned, she owes you an aplogy and not the other way around,

SA said...


Thank you very much, I'm flattered, but I'm just a student. Thus the nanny status. Always consult a real lawyer over anyone on any form, even one as wonderful as ISYN.

But I'm sure you know that. :)


It matters whether the use of your vehicle is personal or for business.

Transporting children as a part of regular nanny work could be considered a business use if done on a regular basis. Err, overuse of the word regular.

I would recommend contacting your insurance agent/company to find out for sure. One may fear the difference in premium, but isn't peace of mind more valuable?

I get piece of mind at a bargain, an extra $7/month. :)

SA said...


My apologies, an addendum: coverage is required on every vehicle you drive.


While not with your wording, I agree with your sentiment and would urge OP not to fall for an "Oh, I'm so sorry."

OP, if that happens, I'd take the job back but begin looking for another at the same time.

OP, your employer's first reaction after confirming the safety of their children should have been what PinkNanny mentioned, asking you whether you were alright.

Not showing you the door.

That is my humble opinion. :)

alex said...

I think it was a little harsh for a little fender bender. People get in accidents all the time and I can completely understand where you are coming from with the kids yelling.

I think your employer just needs to calm down because honestly to fire someone over an accident like that is a little harsh. I rear ended someone once with the kids in the car and thankfully the lady I hit was nice about it. It was a complete accident and barely any damage. The funny thing was the dad said it just added to all the dents the wife had done :)

Really, maybe call her in a few days? I think she way over reacted. It could have just have easily been her.

NannyInCharge said...

I use my own vehicle for this very reason. And I charge a ton of money for gas and wear&tear. I don't want to be responsible for their vehicle.

I have never gotten into any accidents with any charges in my car but I have done the exact same thing you have done. I was at a light and something fell and when I reached down to get it I let off the break and went into the other car in front of me.

There were no damages. If I did this now, with charges in my car, and they fired me??? I wouldn't want to work for them anyways. Accidents happen. Life happens.

Nanny in Rainy San Diego said...

If you were actually driving on the job in their vehicle, then they should have been paying insurance for you to drive it while on the job. If they weren't doing so, then that is their fault.
If you were driving drunk or ran a red light, even if you were speeding I would have been angry at you. But when driving w/kids, sometimes stuff like that happens. It could have happened to her too. For her to fire you was probably an impulsive decision. I hope she calms down and thinks about what is in the best interest of the children and let you have your job back. That would be the right thing to do now. But if she dosen't do that, then don't blame yourself. Accidents happen. We are all human beings. If we never made mistakes, then we would not be able to categorize ourselves as such.

Brat said...

Regarding insurance following the vehicle not the driver - check your state. One of the state's I lived in (can't remember which one now - I've moved a lot) it was the opposite. So, I had to make sure anyone who drove my car had proper insurance. And if I was in an accident in my friends car it would be on my insurance, not hers.

This was a New England state I think, maybe Mass?

mom said...

We just bought new cars and the dealer mentioned to us in passing that in Texas the insurance follows the driver instead of the car. (My son was worried about taking posession of his new car on a Saturday while the insurance agency was closed.)

HOWEVER, I know from past purchases that my insurance carrier has told me that we have about 10 days to alert them to our new vehicle purchases, and in the meantime, we have full coverage on our new vehicles. Still, we get charged by the car, so I know that is also factored in. And yes, "pleasure" driving (which mine is considered as a SAHM) is a different rate (less) than if one drives their car on a job, or over a certain distance to that job.

One story abot obnoxious kids in the car. Once I made the mistake of driving my friend and her two boys with us to the zoo in Los Angeles...a good 2 hour drive home at ruch hour that afternoon. This is the friend I have mentioned here who had ZERO control of her kids and never even tried to discipline them, even though the one had a tendency to beat the crap out of every other kid in the vicinity (except my son, as he knew I had my eye on him at all times. I would watch him eye me as he crept toward my son and when he saw me glare back he would simply choose another victim.) Anyway, so what I got was my own fault for being dumb enough to encase her brood in our car with us...but again, it was a whole playgroup excursion and I was the one who got struck carpooling with her. She literally let her youngest son scream bloody murder the entire way home. Not crying like he was tired or sad, but shrieking in the most blood curdling screams he could manage, just for the sake of screaming. And she never told him to quiet down, not once (despite my many hints...she was not one you could tell directly anythihng about her parenting) but kept handing him snacks, which he did not eat, but threw or smeared all over the window and drew pictures in as he shrieked. I felt like my brains were melting by the time we got home. Just picture sitting on the 405 in standstill traffic listening to that for two hours! Its a shock we didn't have a wreck. And it practically took a HAZMAT team to clean the car afterward.

Anonymous said...
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LA said...

They aren't nice.She let you go as soon as she knew about it.She was more concerned about the car than her children's feelings.I am sure the kids wanted to say good-bye to you.
They probably will discount from your paycheck of the last week the money.Actually, I doubt it: they probably won't pay you at all.
You don't have money but will offer to pay to them and they still will give bad references about you when you look for other job. It's time to move on to something else besides babysitting.I am trying to do that.There aren't much jobs here in L.A.