What is Service of Process?

Home » What is Service of Process?
March 01, 2021
Edward Smith

Providing Notice to the Defendant

If you have a personal injury claim that has received nothing but lowball offers from the insurance company, it may be to the point where your attorney has recommended that a lawsuit be filed.  Once litigation begins, it is likely you will start to hear words and phrases that you may not be familiar with, and one of the first of those phrases may be “service of process.”  

Process service occurs shortly after the lawsuit is filed. It is the procedure through which the plaintiff (the person who filed the lawsuit) gives notice of the legal action to the other party – the defendant(s) – the person, people, entity, and/or entities being sued.  This must occur so that the party or parties being served can formally respond to the lawsuit.  Notice of the lawsuit is completed by the delivery of a set of the filed court documents to the party or parties being served. There are many ways in which the delivery can be accomplished, and aside from direct personal service, the rules are somewhat complicated.

Civil Lawsuits – Procedural Rules

The laws that apply to process service are subject to change, so the most up-to-date version of the California Code of Civil Procedure should always be consulted.  Below are some general guidelines for the service of process.

Who Can Serve the Documents?

Any person who is at least 18 years old and who is not a party to the legal action can serve the summons.

If a person serves more than 10 actions per year, they must register in their resident county or the county in which they maintain their principal place of business.  In order to register, they must have been a resident of California for at least the previous year.  No license is required, but registration and bonding are required – the process server applicant must post a $2,000 cash deposit or bond in that amount.  

How to Complete the Service of Process

The complex rules regarding service of process start with California Code of Civil Procedure § 413.10, which pertains to the most direct way service can be completed – personal service.  Personal service means the process server hands the papers to the individual being served, at which moment the service of process is deemed complete.  That is not always possible, so there are other ways in which service may be completed.  Such as:

  • A copy of the summons and complaint may be served by leaving a copy of the documents during normal office hours at the place of employment of the party to be served.  The documents should be left with the person who is in charge of receiving incoming documents.  Following that, copies of the summons and complaint must be sent via first-class mail to the person to be served at the address where the documents were left. The service is completed on the 10th day after the documents were mailed.
  • The summons and complaint may also be left at the residence of the party being served in the presence of a member of the household who is at least 18 years of age.  The documents must thereafter be mailed first-class to the person being served at the same address at which the documents were left.  Service is complete on the 10th day after the documents were mailed.
  • Service of process strictly by mail will only be deemed completed if the party being served signs and returns a Notice and Acknowledgement form.
  • There are many other rules such as how to serve a registered agent for a corporation, how to serve a person who lives out of state, how to serve a person by publication, and how to serve a person through the DMV.  Take a look at the self-help page for California courts to see how complicated just this one element of litigation can be.  In order to protect your legal rights, we always recommend seeking the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Watch the YouTube video uploaded by the California courts designed to help explain the process.

Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney

Hello – I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento, California personal injury lawyer.  Our experienced injury lawyers can help you navigate the complicated legal process and ensure that your rights are protected and your financial recovery is maximized.  For our free and friendly advice, call us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400, or reach us online.

Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/you-got-served-you-got-served-1403696/

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