What Can (and Can’t) a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?
Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes | Personal Injury
When you file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault party, the party must be served with copies of the lawsuit. In many cases, service is performed personally on each defendant named in the lawsuit. For example, process servers in Florida personally serve papers on individuals and companies.
However, there are some things that a process server cannot do to serve papers on a defendant. Florida has strict laws that govern the actions of process servers. Continue reading to learn more about what a process server can legally do to serve a personal injury lawsuit on a party.
Serving Defendants Copies of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
According to Florida Statute §48.021, the sheriff in the county where the defendant resides must serve the copy of the personal injury lawsuit on the defendant.
However, the law permits sheriffs to appoint persons to act as process servers within the county. The process servers may then serve the lawsuit on the defendant. Additionally, §48.27 of the Florida Code states that the chief judge in each judicial circuit has the authority to create a list of approved certified process servers.
The person serving the personal injury lawsuit on a defendant cannot be connected to the lawsuit. They may also be appointed or approved to serve lawsuits. If the person is not on the approved list or appointed by the sheriff, the service of process is invalid.
How Does a Process Server Delivery the Copy of the Lawsuit to the Defendant?
Process servers must be creative at times to serve papers. Some defendants may hide or actively avoid being served a lawsuit.
Generally, the process server hands the copy of the lawsuit to the defendant. This type of service is known as personal service.
If the defendant refuses to accept the papers, the process server can lay the papers at the person’s feet to effect service. A process server can serve someone even if they don’t touch the papers.
A process server may serve a defendant at the person’s home or work. However, the process server cannot unlawfully enter a person’s place of business if the employer prohibits them from being on the property.
The process server must notify the employer before attempting service. The employer may direct the process server to wait at a designated place to serve the employee to avoid disrupting the business.
A process server cannot break into a property to serve papers, such as by picking a lock on a gate or climbing over a fence.
Leaving The Papers with Another Person
There are situations in which the process server may leave the copy of the lawsuit with another person. For instance, a person who is over the age of 15 years and is at the person’s last known resident may be given the papers. However, the process server must tell the person the contents of the documents to effect service.
Service by Publication and Substituted Service
In some cases, a process server may be unable to locate a defendant for service. After reasonable attempts to locate and serve the person, the plaintiff may file a motion with the court requesting service by publication.
If the plaintiff’s request is granted, a notice of the lawsuit is published in a newspaper of general circulation that encompasses the defendant’s last known address. The notice must contain specific language and meet specific requirements to effect service.
Substituted service is another way to serve defendants who cannot be located or refuse service. The court must approve of the means of service. For instance, service may be made to a post office box or left with a person at a business that the defendant owns.
Suppose the defendant intentionally conceals their address to avoid service. In that case, the process server may be able to effect service for a car accident lawsuit for a crash that occurred in Florida by filing the complaint with the Florida Secretary of State. The defendant must be avoiding service or have moved outside of the state.
Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits
Most personal injury claims are settled without filing a lawsuit. Instead, the victim files a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The insurance company and the accident victim negotiate a settlement agreement.
Examples of accidents or incidents that might result in a lawsuit include, but are not limited to:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Wrongful death claims
- Boating accidents
- Defective products
- Bicycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Truck accidents
However, some personal injury cases cannot be settled through negotiations. Instead, the parties dispute liability and/or damages. It may be necessary to hire an accident lawyer to file a personal injury lawsuit in those situations.