If you intend to file a lawsuit against another person or entity, you will have to ensure proper service of process is performed on the named parties in your lawsuit. Service of process is the delivery of documents to a defendant so that they are on notice that they are being sued. There’s no way around it, the law requires it.
You, as the plaintiff, could ask an uninterested, unbiased acquaintance to serve process. However, doing so can carry several risks if the person you ask is not a special process server, someone who is trained in proper legal document delivery and regularly performs service of process. When someone learns of a lawsuit, they may become emotional for any number of reasons. Having a process server with experience ensures that the situation is handled in a strictly professional manner. Additionally, the average person is not equipped to find someone if they are not at the address you provide. Skip tracing and investigating often requires a license, access to specific databases, or specific industry knowledge. The process of finding someone who has moved may prove difficult without those resources. Of course, it is possible that your process server could get the necessary legal documents in the defendant’s hands without a hitch, only to find they had failed to follow state law regulating service of process, effectively voiding your efforts.
With so much at stake and so many unknowns when it comes to the service of process, it often makes sense to employ a professional process server who understands what it takes to get the job done and who is knowledgeable when it comes to process server rules. Here are four scenarios to keep in mind when it would be best to work with a special process server.
1. When Time is of the Essence
Like all legal proceedings, service of process must meet strict deadlines in order for the service to be valid. Deadlines and rules are set by the court system handling your case and can vary greatly, court to court. For example, for lawsuits filed in federal court, you must serve the defendant within 90 days after filing the initial complaint in court. While there may be what seems like a good amount of time, the clock is always ticking and service is not always easy. Prompt service of process is always desirable, as it leads to a quicker resolution to your legal matter.
Of course, the deadline for service of process involving federal cases may differ from state cases. There are certain states that require parties to be served within shorter timeframes or to be served a certain number of days before the appearance. In those cases, meeting the requirements of the court for when attempts can happen — especially if you have to recover from needing to find a defendant or seeking alternative service options — can become difficult. If you miss those deadlines, you have to get extensions or start over and reset your clock, which also adds time.
A process server is accustomed to finding people as quickly as possible. The party being served may be aware that they are named in a lawsuit and may take measures to avoid being served. A civil process server should be well-versed in skip tracing and other procedures designed to find people who may not want to be found. In addition, when you rely on a professional process server, you will get the peace of mind that comes with knowing that process serving is their job. If you rely on a sheriff or U.S. marshal to serve process, other duties may get in the way and your case could be put on the backburner. A special process server will be focused on getting the job done.
2. When You Need Someone Who Understands the Law
In addition to the above-mentioned rules and regulations governing federal civil suits, each state has differing laws regarding service of process. Some states, such as Texas, require process servers to be certified or licensed. Other states, such as Oregon, have residency requirements for their process servers. There are numerous regulations that must be considered, including restrictions around who may accept process of service and how process is to be effectively delivered. Also, different laws may apply depending on the type of lawsuit that is being filed. For example, eviction cases are usually regulated differently than a standard lawsuit.
These differing requirements can be a lot to keep track of, especially if the party you are suing resides in another state. The last thing you want is for your lawsuit to be thrown out on a technicality. When you hire a special process server, you will get someone who is knowledgeable concerning all relevant laws and regulations, and who will ensure that proper service of process is carried out to the letter of the law.
3. When Personal Service Is Not Possible
Ideally, a process server will be able to track a defendant down and hand over the necessary documents in person. This way, there is no question that process was served. However, sometimes delivery is not so simple. Sometimes people move, avoid contact, or avoid service outright. When personal service is not possible, there are other accepted methods for carrying out process of service.
Substituted service allows for leaving documents with a person other than the defendant. Often, this occurs in the context of leaving papers with the resident of a home where the defendant is believed to be staying. Once again, laws vary from state to state on who can accept process of service. In some states, the person must be at least 18 years of age. Other states allow people who are younger than 18 to accept documents, so long as they understand what is happening. Some states may simply allow for service by mail to the defendant’s address. A civil process server will understand what methods suffice for substituted service.
Alternative types of service of process may involve serving process via the postal service or through the publication of notice in a local newspaper. Alternative service can only be used if a judge approves of the plan. Again, a special process server will understand how to get court approval for the alternative service and how to effectively carry out this service.
4. When You Need Someone with a Deft Touch
No one is thrilled to find out that they are being sued. Professional process servers are trained to handle service of process in a clear, professional manner. Emotions can become volatile when process is served. Process servers who have years of experience have likely seen it all. They can help ensure that delivery is effective without putting themselves or others in harm’s way.
ABC Legal Can Help You Find a Skilled Process Server
There are numerous scenarios where your case benefits from the skills of a professional process server. In fact, it makes sense to use a civil process server in almost any type of case. You will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the job is being done correctly and you can receive regular updates on how things are progressing with your legal matter. ABC Legal can ensure that service of process for your documents is professional and prompt. Place an order online and see the difference using ABC Legal makes on your next case.