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What is a process server and why do I need one?

UPDATED: December 29, 2019

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A process server is a person who delivers a court order and/or documents that compel a defendant’s presence in court. A process server must actually hand these documents to the defendant in the case, and often says, “You have been served.” In instances when it is not possible to hand the documents to the defendant directly, the process server can also give them to management at the defendant’s place of business, or to another adult resident (18 or older) in the defendant’s home, who then becomes the agent of the defendant.

The process server cannot be a party to the particular case mentioned in the documents. The process server must also show proof that the documents were in fact served, which is typically accomplished with a notarized proof of service. In many states, a process server is also required to carry a specific license and in some cases must have insurance as well.

What Documents Does a Process Server Deliver?

Process servers deliver a variety of legal documents, including writs, subpoenas to testify in court, a summons to appear in court, and formal complaints. In addition to serving these documents, process servers can also assist with filing appropriate documents in court, retrieving documents for you, and helping you track down a defendant.

Do I Need a Process Server?

Whether or not you need a process server depends on your specific case and the laws governing your case in your state and municipality. In more serious cases (that is, cases involving larger sums of money than what amounts to “small claims”) or when you are subpoenaing someone to appear in court, you may need a process server.

If you are not sure, contact your attorney or a local process-serving agency to determine the specifics in your case. Process servers are often well-versed in which cases require their services, and they can help to point you in the right direction. Failing to use a process server when you need one can delay your case, or worse, your case could thrown out on procedural grounds.

The purpose of a process server is to make sure the defendant is notified and given the chance to come to court and offer a defense. The U.S. Constitution requires that no defendant be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law, and making sure a defendant is aware of the fact that he or she has to come to court is an important part of due process. If the defendant is properly served and knows they are supposed to come to court, and does not show up, the plaintiff can get a default judgment against the defendant (in other words, they can be declared the automatic winner). Thus, process servers perform the important function of protecting defendants’ rights.

Process Server Cost

Hiring a process server can cost anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on how many attempts the process server must make to serve the defendant the particular documents. Rates can also vary greatly from state to state, with national averages for process server fees being between $45 and $75.

The requirement to hire a process server is only one of the many rules of civil procedure that govern the process of suing someone in court. It is always a good idea to hire an experienced attorney when you are filing a lawsuit in order to make sure that you follow all procedures and so that you don’t make a mistake that will jeopardize your case.

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