When an individual decides to take legal action against another party – like filing a personal injury lawsuit for damages after a car accident – they are required to serve notice of the lawsuit to the defendant. Often this is arranged by their lawyer and carried out by a process server. 

A process server is an individual whose primary responsibility is to deliver legal notices into the hands of defendants and others involved in court cases. 

Examples of the types of documents process servers deliver include:

  • Summons
  • Subpoenas
  • Complaints

In some cases, process servers will also work filing or retrieving the archives of previous cases.

In the state of New York, an individual does not need to be licensed in order to be a process server.  However, in various jurisdictions around the state, such as New York City, a license is required. 

In order to obtain a license, there are several steps a prospective process server needs to complete. Some of those steps include:

  • Applying for the license
  • Submitting photos of themself
  • Securing a New York process server bond (similar to insurance)
  • Providing a valid and up to date background check

In addition to the above steps, a person interested in becoming a process server needs to pay the process server licensing fee. It should also be noted that in order to be eligible to be licensed as a process server, an individual needs to be 18 years of age or older. 

What Process Servers Can Do

Once a process server has been licensed and is enlisted to deliver legal notices in a particular case, there are several things they can (and cannot) do to get the job done. Obviously, given the fact that many people aren’t thrilled about getting sued, process servers might be tasked with serving papers to defendants who attempt to evade detection.

In most cases, a process server will try to deliver the legal notices directly to the defendant in the lawsuit. While doing this, process servers cannot break the law or harass defendants in any way. This means they cannot open a person’s mailbox, trespass, or impersonate a police officer. However, they can deliver the legal notices to the individual’s home or business, or try to deliver it to them in a public place.

If, after several attempts, the process server has been unable to deliver the papers, they can give them to another individual in the home or at the workplace of the defendant. The individual needs to be over the age of 18. This is known as substituted service. In addition to delivering the papers to another person, they will mail the legal notices directly to the defendant.

If that doesn’t work, a process server can post the legal notice or summons on the defendant’s door, either at their home or their office, and then mail it to them. Regardless of how the process server delivers the legal documents, they need to then submit proof of service to the court.

While there are several other obscure ways of delivering papers, process servers can pursue if none of the above three methods work, they are very uncommon as papers can usually be delivered in person or via mail.

Why You Should Always Accept and Respond to Papers Delivered By a Process Server

If a process server is attempting to deliver legal notices to you it can be tempting to try and avoid them. However, avoiding the summons could only increase your problems. If a party does not respond to a lawsuit within a set amount of time, the judge might enter a default judgment in your case.

Eventually, this could lead to the plaintiff in the case freezing your bank account or garnishing your wages. Rather than letting that happen, it is best to confront your legal issues head-on with the help of a qualified attorney.