What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers in St. Petersburg?

Serving papers, or “process of service,” is one of the most important aspects of any type of lawsuit. For example, personal injury lawsuits, like those arising out of medical malpractice, car accidents, and slip and falls, require that every single named defendant be served with a complaint and summons to court.

Service is often accomplished by designated process servers, who are bound by strict rules determining what they can and can’t do. Laws relating to the service of process are very complex. If you have any questions, it is best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. However, read on for some brief information on what a process server can and cannot do to serve papers in St. Petersburg.

Florida Requires Service by the Sheriff or Process Servers

In Florida, all service is completed by the sheriff. Notably, it can’t just be any sheriff, but the sheriff’s office that is located in the same county as the named defendant (the target for service). Further, the sheriff typically has a list of approved, designated process servers. These designated servers are established by the sheriff, who certifies and appoints them. A process server cannot have any interest in the lawsuit at hand.

Strict laws govern the procedure for service of process. Violations of these laws (by you or your process server) can result in fines or other legal action.

What Can Process Servers Do to Complete Service?

There are several ways the sheriff or designated process servers can complete service in St. Petersburg and throughout Florida.

Personal Service

A copy of the complaint and summons may be served personally on the defendant. This means that the process server physically serves the documents to the defendant. Notably, the server does not actually have to place the documents in the defendant’s hands, as they can simply be announced and placed in front of the defendant (e.g., on a table or bench where the defendant is sitting).

Personal service can occur virtually anywhere. Typically, it occurs at a person’s residence, as process servers are allowed to attempt service at a defendant’s home. This can be accomplished by ringing the doorbell or even waiting outside the residence. Of course, there are legal limits to what a process server can do (e.g., trespass).

Personal service can also occur at other locations frequented by the defendant. These high-traffic locations can include the defendant’s place of employment, a relative’s residence, or places tied to the defendant’s hobbies. With many people, there is plenty of readily available information online regarding our daily habits. A process server can utilize that information to personally serve the defendant at one of their favorite hot spots. 

Service at Work

Again, process servers may serve a defendant at their place of employment. However, Florida has specific laws about what must be done in this scenario. The server must notify the employer regarding the attempt for service prior to the attempt. 

This allows the employer to create a private space where the employee can be served outside of the presence of others. Employer notice is a requirement in Florida, and violating this rule can result in fines.

Substitute Service at Home

Notably, a process server can serve papers on someone else at the defendant’s home (i.e., someone who is not the defendant). This is one type of “substitute service,” where the person being served is a substitute for the named defendant. Again, Florida has specific rules for this. Namely, the substitute person must be at least 15 years old.

The reasoning behind this law is that someone who is 15 or older will understand the gravity of the situation and the importance of the documents. They can be reasonably expected to give the papers to the named defendant. The process server must explain what the papers are when serving the substitute. 

Notably, Florida has specific provisions allowing substitute service for cases related to car accidents. When a defendant is a nonresident of Florida or attempts to hide his location and whereabouts, Florida statute § 48.171 allows substitute service on Florida’s Secretary of State office.

This helps claimants achieve service in cases where nonresidents may flee or otherwise attempt to evade service.

Other Forms of Substitute Service

There are many additional scenarios where substitute service may be appropriate, including service at a business owned by a defendant or even service by publication. Again, these methods are subject to strict rules, such as requirements that prior personal service attempts be made. For more information regarding service related to your personal injury matter, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

What Can’t Process Servers Do?

In short, process servers must comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. For example, a process server cannot complete service by simply leaving documents on the front porch or slipping it in a mailbox or slot. 

They cannot obtain service through means of deception, such as by lying about who they are. Of course, it would be wholly illegal for a process server to trespass, use force, or break and enter into a property to attempt service.

If you are considering filing a personal injury matter, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney. They can help you comply with procedural requirements for serving your lawsuit papers.

Contact the Pinellas County Personal Injury Law Firm Of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers for Help

For more information, please contact the Clearwater and St. Petersburg personal injury law firm of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We serve in Pinellas County, and its surrounding areas:

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater
1875 N Belcher Rd. STE 201,
Clearwater, FL 33765,
United States
727-796-8282

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg
2560 1st Ave S,
St. Petersburg, FL 33712,
United States
727-344-4242