What Exactly Can a Process Server Do To Serve Papers?
August 7, 2022 | Sagi Shaked
When another person causes you to be injured or harmed, you can sue that person for damages. Most personal injury claims settle outside of court. The injured party negotiates a settlement instead of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
However, the parties might be unable to settle a personal injury claim. For example, the at-fault party might deny liability for the claim, or the parties cannot agree on an amount for damages. In those cases, the injured party may file a lawsuit.
“Service of process” requires that the plaintiff (person who filed the lawsuit) provide a copy of the lawsuit to the defendant (the person being sued). Generally, a lawyer hires a process server to “serve” the defendant with a copy of the lawsuit. A process server is a person who delivers court documents.
How Do People Become Process Servers in Florida?
Florida Statute §48.021 requires the sheriff of the county where the defendant lives to serve the defendant with the complaint. However, a sheriff can appoint special process servers within the county authorized to serve court documents. According to the statute, a special process server must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have no legal or mental disability
- Be a permanent resident in Florida
- Pass a background check, including a criminal history
- Have no pending criminal case against them
- No record of crimes involving dishonesty or moral turpitude, or felony offenses within the past five years
- Pass an exam demonstrating they understand the rules and laws regarding service of process
- Take an oath to exercise their duties faithfully, diligently, and honestly
In addition to the sheriffs appointing special process servers in each county, Florida Statute §48.27 gives chief judges in each judicial circuit the authority to appoint certified process servers. Certified process servers appointed by the chief judge must execute a $5,000 surety bond and meet the other requirements for becoming a process server in Florida.
What Methods Can a Process Server Use To Serve the Defendant in a Personal Injury Case?
Typically, process servers use personal service to accomplish their goal of serving the defendant. Personal service means that the process server hands the defendant a copy of the complaint.
However, a process server might need to take additional steps to locate defendants who try to evade service. For that reason, the process server must follow rules when serving a defendant.
Placing the Document at the Person’s feet
For example, a process server can leave the complaint at the person’s feet if the person refuses to touch the document. It is a myth that the defendant must “touch” the document or have it in their hand for the service of process to be valid.
Serving Someone at Work
A process server can serve a defendant at their home or work. Process servers are prohibited from breaking into a business to serve a document. For example, picking a lock or climbing over a fence to enter a business without permission to serve documents is unlawful.
Instead, the process server must notify the employer of the intention to serve an employee. Then, the employer can direct the process server to serve the employee at a designated place to avoid disrupting business operations.
Leave the Complaint With Someone Else
The process server can leave the documents with someone at the person’s last known residence. The person must be over 15 years old. Also, the process server must inform the person of the contents of the documents for the service to be legal.
Publication of Service and Substituted Service of Process
Sometimes a defendant cannot be located to effect service of process. In those cases, a Miami personal injury lawyer may petition the court to allow for service by publication.
If the judge approves the plaintiff’s motion to serve by publication, a notice of the lawsuit is published in the newspaper. The newspaper must include the defendant’s address within its general circulation area. In addition, the notice must contain specific language to effect service.
Other ways that service may be made include mailing the complaint to a post office box or leaving the document with a person who works for the defendant at the defendant’s business. However, the judge must approve the method of substituted service of process for it to be valid.
In some cases, a plaintiff may file the complaint with the Florida Secretary of State to effect service. This service method is used when a defendant conceals their address, actively avoids service, or has moved away from Florida.
Service of Process Applies in All Personal Injury Cases
It does not matter what type of injury you sustained. If you sue the party who caused the injury, you must effect service on that party. Examples of accidents or incidents that can result in a personal injury lawsuit include, but are not limited to:
- Car crashes
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products (product liability)
- Truck accidents
- Dog bites
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Pedestrian accidents
- Construction accidents
- Boating accidents
- Wrongful death
- Workplace accidents
Any incident or accident resulting in another person’s injury or death could give rise to a personal injury claim. The best way to know whether you have a legal claim against another party is to talk to a Miami personal injury attorney.