What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?

Some legal documents must be served on the individuals named in the lawsuit. In a personal injury case, the initial complaint must be served on the defendant. The defendant is the person or party being sued for damages.

A personal injury lawsuit begins with the filing of the complaint. The complaint includes the specific allegations of fault and liability against the other party. It also describes what the injured party demands as compensation for damages. 

The complaint must be served on the defendant. The defendant has a specific number of days to respond to the allegations in the complaint. Failing to respond to the complaint could result in a default judgment

How are Defendants Served in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Florida Code §48.021 requires that the sheriff in the county where the person lives serve the complaint in a personal injury case. However, the sheriff may appoint persons to serve as special process servers within that county.

Section 48.27 of the Florida Code also states that the chief judge in each judicial circuit may create an approved list of certified process servers. Therefore, each circuit may have numerous companies or individuals who can serve a complaint in truck accident, slip and fall, or other personal injury lawsuits. 

In either case, the person cannot be connected to the lawsuit and must meet all requirements to be a process server in Florida. 

How Does a Process Server Effect Service of a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In most cases, the service of a complaint is accomplished on the person by leaving a copy of the complaint with the person. This method of service is known as personal service. The person may be served at home or work.

There are some cases in which the process server may leave the complaint with another person. For example, the process server may leave the complaint with someone over the age of 15 years at the person’s known residence. The process server must inform the person of the contents of the documents. 

If the person is served at work, the process server must notify the employer of the service before attempting service. The employer may designate an area for the employee to be served with the complaint to reduce any embarrassment the person might feel when being served legal documents at work.

Substituted Service and Service by Publication

There may be instances in which the court allows notice of the lawsuit to be served by means other than personal service. Substituted service occurs when the papers are given to someone other than the person to be served. 

Substituted service is only permitted after the process server has attempted to serve the defendant or cannot locate the defendant. The process server must follow the rules for substituted service. In some cases, the court may need to approve the means of service before substituted service is valid.

An example of substituted service is leaving the documents with a person in charge of a business owned by the defendant. Service might also be made to a person in charge of a post office box if the defendant has a post office box but no known residential address.

In some car accident cases, the process server may be able to serve the defendant by serving the Florida Secretary of State. The car accident must have occurred in Florida. The defendant must be concealing their location or have moved out of state for the service to be effective.

When a defendant cannot be located, the plaintiff may file a motion with the court seeking service by publication. The plaintiff must demonstrate that a good faith effort has been made to serve the defendant, but the defendant has evaded service or cannot be located.

If the court grants the plaintiff’s motion, the defendant may be served by publishing notice of the complaint in a newspaper of general circulation in the area in which the defendant lives. The notice must meet specific standards and follow all laws for the service of documents by publication. 

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Personal Injury Claim?

It can be difficult to know when to hire a personal injury attorney. Some injury claims may be settled without the help of an attorney. However, you should make sure that you know the value of your injury claim and your legal rights before signing a settlement agreement.

Settlement agreements are final. If you do not receive the full value of your claim, you may not demand more money once you release the other party from liability by signing a settlement agreement. 

If you cannot settle your personal injury claim, you may need to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your damages. Waiting too long to seek legal counsel could result in losing your right to file a lawsuit if the statute of limitations expires.