6 Things Law Firms Should Consider When Serving Court Papers for Personal Injury Cases
As a law firm, you're probably well aware of the importance of reliable process servers when it comes to personal injury litigation.
From delivering the initial summons requiring someone to appear in court, to managing witness subpoenas, to notifying defendants of changes through court orders—serving legal documents is the consistent thread weaving everything together and keeping folks on the same page.
It might be tempting to assume that all process servers offer the same level of quality, but this is unfortunately not the case. Vendors vary in their level of knowledge and training, in speed and efficiency, and in the level of timely communication, they provide their clients.
Understanding how to distinguish between process server vendors can be helpful as you make your choice. Read on to learn what law firms should consider when it's time to hire a process server.
What Do Process Servers Do?
Process servers fulfill the role of making sure that parties to a lawsuit are sufficiently notified.
Service of process can occur in several ways, and the rules around who can perform service, how service is to be completed, and what steps to take in the face of a bad address or evasion will vary by state and sometimes local jurisdiction. Some common methods include:
- Personal service: The process server personally hands the documents to the party named in the documents and tells them they are being served.
- Substituted service: When the party listed on the documents cannot be served documents are sometimes left with an appropriate substitute party by a qualified individual.
- Alternative service: Often used as a last resort (and frequently with court approval), alternative service happens when personal and substitute service don't work. This may require placing an ad in a local paper or publicly posting the documents.
Process servers trained in local rules and regulations can help your firm complete all these methods of service.
What Should Law Firms Consider When Serving Court Papers?
So, what are some key points for law firms to keep in mind when it comes to serving legal documents?
1. Timeliness of serving court papers
Obviously, speed and efficiency are big factors when it comes to service of process. You may want to look for rush service capabilities and automations like address validation that can expedite your order.
Sometimes additional work in locating parties may be needed. Working with a process service vendor that is set up to provide additional support in the face of bad addresses or a defendant who is difficult to locate can keep your case moving. Always ask if a process service vendor offers skip tracing and investigation services.
2. Transparent Communication
Knowing where your service stands in real-time can help minimize both your client's anxiety and potential sources of delay. Communication practices vary. Always look to receive status updates on your process server, as well as urgent notifications that require your input.
The ideal communication process should provide full transparency: You should receive confirmation once the order is placed, real-time updates along the way, and an alert once the service is complete.
You also should examine what recordkeeping will be like. The communication system should not only allow you to quickly navigate to serve status but also locate any supporting documents, photo evidence, and proof of service. Also, being able to store all your firm's service history under one account can streamline your administrative work. ABC Legal allows you to offer administrative privileges to each attorney, so they can individually access status and supporting documents.
Rules affecting proper service of process can be complex and can change over time. Beyond any requisite state certifications or other training, the right process server vendor will take additional measures to guarantee compliance and awareness of latest jurisdictional requirements for proper service of process. For example, ABC Legal uses technologies that send process servers quality checks via mobile-app prompts as added assurance of proper step completion and record keeping.
ABC Legal also provides a live support team to help process servers navigate in-the-field challenges that arise, measures a process server’s ongoing performance, and offers continuing education opportunities to make sure process servers are up to date on the latest techniques and regulatory compliance.
4. Latest technology tools
Technology is changing the industry in many ways. For example, in the past, performing quality checks on record keeping as mentioned earlier would have been cumbersome. With the aid of the right technology, however, establishing workflows and verifying processes can be done via mobile app to save time and ensure the serve is ironclad against challenge.
These days, process servers can use technology to quickly double-check the latest regulations, find people faster, communicate with those placing orders, and provide supporting evidence of service, such as photos or GPS coordinates.
5. Holistic service package
In addition to a seamless experience from start to finish, law firms should also consider availability of add-on options that might be needed, such as skip tracing, investigations backup, e-filing resources, international service, and more. A company that offers comprehensive services this way can simplify things considerably because you will only have one vendor to communicate with.
We put this last, but trust is paramount! A culture of trust is displayed in many ways. Trust comes from full transparency of your serve’s progress, which leaves you never in doubt of where your important documents are at any time. Trust is knowing your process server has not only been sufficiently trained, but also is being backed by solid recordkeeping workflows and a team of support. Trust is knowing that your vendor completes security audits, such as the NCBA subcontractor program. Trust is having complete visibility to compliance documents at any time. Trust is having your process server report on their overall performance to you in detailed dashboards, so you know exactly where your cases stand and what’s hurting your service rate.
You want to be able to focus on other things and trust that your service of process is happening in a timely, smooth manner.
ABC Legal is law firms’ top choice for fast, professional, dependable service of process. Learn more about us and reach out today. We look forward to hearing from you!