What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers in Jacksonville
When a personal injury lawsuit is filed, process servers conduct an essential task by guaranteeing that other parties to the case obtain a timely notice that legal activity is pending against them. Proper service is vitally important to a lawsuit because it ensures that the court has personal jurisdiction over the other party.
In other words, if someone isn’t properly served, the court cannot hear the matter or enter a judgment against them, and the case may be delayed or dismissed. This is true whether the case is a car accident case, slip and fall, or another personal injury matter.
What is a Process Server and Who Can Become One in Florida?
A process server is a neutral third party that delivers court documents to a party to an action.
Under Florida’s service of process rules, the sheriff of the county where the person is located must act as the process server for all enforceable matters. In other words, if the pleading directs the sheriff to take some action (e.g., a writ of possession directs the sheriff to evict the listed party), the sheriff must act as the process server.
A civil summons and complaint, which starts a personal injury case, is a non-enforceable civil process and therefore does not have to be served by the sheriff. For these types of pleadings, the sheriff may create a list of approved persons designated to act as a process server.
To become a process server in Florida, you must:
- Have no mental or legal disability;
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Be a resident of Florida;
- Pass a background check;
- Have no pending charges or convictions in the last five years;
- Pass a service of process exam; and
- Take an oath to honestly exercise your duties as a process server.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will generally serve non-enforceable documents for a small fee; enforceable matters are more expensive.
How Are Documents Served by a Process Server?
Generally, a process server will physically deliver a copy of the documents to the intended party’s residence. If the person isn’t home, delivery must be made to a resident who is at least 15 years old, and the process server must inform the recipient of the contents.
The process server may deliver the documents to the person’s place of employment. If so, the process server must contact the employer in advance, and the delivery must be done in a private area to avoid disturbance or embarrassment.
If the person lives in a gated community or condo, a process server must be granted unannounced entry to serve the intended recipient.
Florida generally does not allow service of process to be accomplished via mail if personal service is possible, except for witness subpoenas, nonresident businesses, and other limited circumstances.
What if the Process Server Can’t Locate the Intended Recipient?
Sometimes, the process server may be unable to locate the person. Some individuals may try to evade the process server, thinking they can avoid the lawsuit.
If this happens, substituted service may be used to deliver the documents:
- To the intended recipient’s spouse, if the spouse isn’t an opponent in the lawsuit, the spouse requests such service, and the spouse lives with the intended recipient
- To a sole proprietor’s place of business, if the process server has attempted to serve the owner twice before
- To a person in charge of a virtual office or private mailbox, if that’s the only known address for the intended recipient
If none of these options are available or all options have been exhausted, the last resort is service of process by publication, which must be approved by the court. In this case, if the evasive party does not appear or otherwise respond to the pleadings, the court may issue a default judgment against them, meaning the judge will rule in the plaintiff’s favor without ever hearing from the defendant.
When Can a Process Server Serve Another Party?
Initial pleadings (summons and complaint) must be served within 120 days after the complaint is filed.
Generally, documents can be served upon the intended recipient at any time. However, process servers in Florida cannot serve documents on Sunday.
What Happens If I Am Served?
If a process server approaches you, politely accept the documentation. Evading service of process doesn’t accomplish anything and will not bode well for you.
The best thing you can do is consult a Jacksonville personal injury attorney to determine how to move forward and respond. An attorney will be best suited to determine your legal options and advocate for you if you’re served.
Contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Law Firm of Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers Today For Help
Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers – Jacksonville
9471 Baymeadows Rd #105,
Jacksonville, FL 32256, United States