Babysitters are grateful to have your business when things are going well. But what happens if things go wrong and they try to sue you?
Can your babysitter sue you? Your babysitter could potentially sue you for any number of reasons, including, not being paid on time, injuries, getting sick from eating your food, and more. Your babysitter can sue you whether they're classified as an independent contractor or an employee.
In this article, I'll go over some of the everyday situations that might end up leading to a babysitter filing a lawsuit against you. I'll also give you some advice on what you should do to protect yourself in case it happens to you.
When Can A Babysitter Sue You?
A babysitter can try to sue you for any injury or perceived injury. That includes physical, emotional, and financial harm. Whether they would actually win their lawsuit depends largely on what the specific case is.
Here are some things a babysitter could potentially sue you for.
For Unpaid Wages
If you use a babysitter, always be sure to pay them on time. Otherwise you could open your family up to a potential lawsuit.
Unpaid wages would go through a small claims court. Claims made in this court typically have a limit of around $20,000 per case. But that's most likely more than enough to cover any outstanding wages that are unpaid to your babysitter.
In small claims court, individuals usually defend themselves and a lawyer is not always necessary. In most jurisdictions, if you don't show up for small claims court, the party suing you will win by default and you'll be on the hook for whatever amount they're asking for. So don't ignore any notices to appear in small claims court or brush them off as a joke.
For the most part, there's no reason why you shouldn't pay your babysitter on time. Even if there is some ongoing dispute with the babysitter, or you have your own lawsuit against them for negligence or some other issue. It's better to pay them so they can't hold that against you, and then pursue any other issues with them separately.
Not paying on time is just one pet peeve of babysitters. See my article 15 Things Babysitters Wish Parents Would Stop Doing for some more.
I Paid, But My Babysitter Says I Didn't?
You'll want to issue receipts to your babysitter whenever they work for you, to keep a paper trail of all of the amounts that you've paid them. Especially if you pay in cash, because there's no other way to confirm if you paid them or not. It's best to get them to sign every time they babysit for you, confirming that they received their payment in full.
If a babysitter tries to sue you for not paying when you did, you'll need this paperwork to defend yourself and prove otherwise. If you pay your babysitter electronically, keep a record of the amounts paid. Most apps or your bank account will track this for you. I'd recommend printing it at least once per year, as you'll probably need to list it on your taxes as an expense anyway.
What If I Pay My Babysitter Under The Table?
Paying your babysitter "under the table" means paying them in cash, with the expectation that neither of you will declare the transaction on your tax return. You might be able to offer babysitters a lower rate in exchange for paying in cash. But this can end up hurting you, just as much as them.
Even if your babysitter is paid under the table, they can still sue you. If your babysitter is considered your employee, paying them under the table doesn't remove your responsibility to pay minimum wage. So they can come back in the future and try to sue you for the difference between what you paid and minimum wage.
If your babysitter is considered an employee (usually if they work for you full-time, or they live with you like a nanny) then it's not worth the risk of trying to pay them under the table. You might end up facing extra interest and penalties on taxes you were supposed to withhold on their behalf.
If your babysitter is an independent contractor, you'll want the option to use your babysitting payments as an expense on your tax return, if that's an option where you live.
So it's better to keep things on the books and protect yourself from multiple different payment-related risks.
If They Get Injured In Your Home
If your babysitter hurts themself on your property, you could be held liable.
It could be something as simple as slipping and falling on the way down your driveway at the end of the night. Or they might try to sue for something that doesn't seem like it should be your fault. For example, if they cut themselves while cooking a meal for your child, or they get electrocuted when trying to plug something in with wet hands.
If you're driving your babysitter home after they're done working and you get into a car accident, they could potentially sue you for any injuries they sustain. Even if the accident wasn't your fault.
Your babysitter could eat leftovers from your fridge and get seriously ill, and end up in the hospital. Even if you didn't give them permission to eat the food, you could still be on the hook.
Say someone breaks into your home while the babysitter is there and they get hurt by the burglar. That could still end up being on you for not keeping them safe.
There are so many ways that your babysitter could potentially get hurt while on your property that it's hard to predict and avoid them all.
Can you record your babysitter to legally protect yourself? It depends where you live. Read my article Is It Legal to Record a Babysitter? (What the Law Says) for the full details.
If Your Child or Pet Injures Them
If your dog or another pet bites the babysitter, they could potentially sue you over it. Even if it's something as silly as a pet rabbit that bites their finger, if it gets infected and they need treatment for it.
If your toddler ends up biting them, they might even be grounds for a lawsuit. On its own, being bit by a child you're babysitting probably isn't a very strong case. But if they can prove a history of your child biting babysitters, or your child has a history of biting other kids at school and they can get access to those records, they might have a compelling case to make.
What Should You Do To Protect Yourself?
The simplest way to protect yourself against lawsuits from your babysitter, whether they're frivolous or actually have grounds, is to get liability insurance.
Your homeowner policy might already have some liability insurance included with it. Usually, it's a pretty low amount though, like $50,000 or $100,000. It might not cover you in case a more costly lawsuit comes along.
So you may want to consider getting an umbrella liability policy added to your insurance plan. It costs about an extra $500 per year, but it will cover you for $1 to $2 million. The good part about umbrella coverage is that it applies to everything. In addition to your home, it will also bump up the basic liability coverage that you've got on your car.
Do You Need Worker's Compensation Coverage?
If you've got a live-in babysitter who is more like a nanny and also does housekeeping or prepares meals, they are likely classed as an employee and things will be a bit different. In that case, you'll need to pay for worker's compensation insurance, or whatever the equivalent is called in your area.
This type of insurance will cover lost earnings and any medical treatment that your employee babysitter needs in case they get injured at work.
Even if you don't pay your babysitter, but give them room and board in exchange for their services, they can still be deemed a worker. So it's still a good idea to get worker's insurance to be safe.
However, if you only have your babysitter work for you on an occasional basis, they would be deemed as an independent contractor and your home insurance should cover any payouts if they get injured.
Avoid a bad babysitter from the start. Check my article Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter (18 Red Flags to Avoid!) so you know what to look out for.
Your babysitter can sue you for a bunch of different reasons.
If you don't pay them in a timely manner, they can take you to small claims court to try and collect on their unpaid earnings. Even if you have some other kind of outstanding dispute with them.
If your babysitter gets injured while on the job, they might sue you. That can include everything from a simple slip and fall, to getting bit by your dog.
The best way to protect yourself from potential lawsuits is to get umbrella liability insurance. It will dramatically increase the amount of insurance money that you're entitled to in case a babysitter tries to sue you.
Can you sue a babysitter?
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer. These details here are presented as accurately as possible but may contain errors and are for information purposes only. In addition, laws vary significantly from country to country and even from state to state. You should consult a professional or look into your local laws before making any decisions.
What to do about a Spanking Babysitter
(Take Immediate Action)
Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter
(19 Red Flags to Avoid!)
How to Find a Reliable Babysitter You Can Trust
Find a Sitter
The Perfect Gift For Your Babysitter
My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If your babysitter is serious about becoming the best sitter they can be, then this book is perfect for them. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder