Process servers have a serious responsibility to deliver legal documents for court cases, which is why they should be diligent, efficient, and professional at all times. However, mistakes can happen even to the best of us. Also, it is not just these professionals who could commit mistakes. As a claimant, you could also make some errors that could delay your case.
In this article, we will discuss the most common process service mistakes and provide tips on how to avoid them. So, let us get right into it.
7 Common Mistakes in Legal Process Serving
When it comes to process serving, mistakes can have serious consequences. These errors can lead to unfavorable outcomes in a legal case, which could be frustrating for the claimant. In some cases, they can even result in the dismissals. Here are seven common process service mistakes you should be aware of.
1. Serving Process to the Wrong Person
Among the process service errors that are most commonly committed is serving the legal documents to the wrong person. This mistake usually happens when the process server does not take their time to verify the identity of the individual they are serving. It can also be due to inaccurate information provided by the client.
To avoid this, it is important for process servers to double-check the details of the person being served and ask for identification. As a claimant, you should also provide accurate and up-to-date information to them to avoid any confusion.
2. Serving Incorrect Court Papers
This often happens when the claimant provides outdated or incomplete information to the process server. As a result, the wrong documents are served, which can lead to delays and confusion.
So, before handing over the court papers to your process server, make sure they are accurate. If there are any changes or updates to the documents, inform your process server immediately.
3. Putting the Wrong Name
This may sound unlikely, but mistakes in legal process serving, such as putting the wrong name in the documents, can occur. This could happen if the process server misreads or misspells the name of the person being served. It can also happen if you provide the wrong information.
It is important for process servers to carefully check and cross-reference all details before serving the papers. On your part, make sure to provide the correct spelling of the individual’s name and any other relevant information.
4. Serving Process Outside of Time Limits
Each state has specific time limits for serving legal documents, which must be strictly adhered to. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that happens in process serving. If the papers are not served within the required time frame, the court may dismiss the case, resulting in delays and extra costs for the claimant.
Process servers should be familiar with the time limits set by their state. They should also have a proper system in place to keep track of deadlines. As a claimant, it is your responsibility to provide the correct deadline for serving the documents to your process server. Make sure to do so as soon as possible to avoid any delays.
In some states, alternative methods to prevent common service of process blunders are allowed if a personal service cannot be completed within the specified time frame. For example, serving through certified mail or publication may be accepted by the court as long as it meets all the requirements.
5. Notifying the Defendant
Some people who know that they are being sued would try to avoid being served the court papers. As a result, process servers may have difficulty in finding and serving them within the time limit.
When hiring a process server, it would be good to find someone who also has good skills in skip tracing. This will ensure that the person being served is located and notified within the set time limits.
Make sure to inform your process server if there are any difficulties in serving the defendant. This will give them enough time to explore other options or request an extension from the court if necessary.
6. Forgetting to File an Affidavit of Service
Once process servers deliver court papers successfully, they need to file an affidavit of service, also known as proof of service, with the court. This document serves as proof that the papers have been served to the defendant within the required time frame. Unfortunately, this is one of the legal document delivery mistakes that a lot of process servers make.
It is your responsibility to follow up with your process server and ensure that the document has been filed with the court. This will prevent any issues or confusion later on.
Do Affidavits of Service Need to Be Notarized?
The answer varies depending on the state. Some states require notarization, while others do not. Make sure to check your state’s requirements and have your process server comply accordingly. Remember that notarization of the affidavit of service is a crucial step for it to be considered valid proof of service.
Is an Affidavit of Service the Same as a Certificate of Service?
Yes, an affidavit of service and a certificate of service are essentially the same thing. Both documents serve as proof that legal papers have been successfully served to the defendant. The main difference is that an affidavit of service usually requires notarization, while a certificate of service does not.
In some states, these terms may be used interchangeably, but it is important for process servers to be aware of the specific requirements and terminology used in their state.
7. Not Following the Proper Process Serving Protocol
Process server mistakes usually happen when the proper protocol is not followed. This could be due to a lack of knowledge or carelessness on the part of the process server. For example, serving papers at an incorrect address or time can lead to delays and even legal consequences.
It is crucial for process servers to know and follow the correct protocols when serving court documents. These protocols may vary depending on the state and type of case. For example, serving papers for a divorce case may have different requirements compared to serving papers for a civil lawsuit.
In addition, process servers should also be aware of the proper procedures for serving different types of individuals. For example, serving papers to someone who is incarcerated or out-of-state may require different protocols compared to serving papers to an individual at their home.
Can You Serve Legal Documents on Your Own?
As a claimant, it may be tempting to serve legal documents on your own in order to save money. However, this is not recommended as it can lead to many mistakes and complications.
Serving legal documents requires proper knowledge and training in order to ensure that the papers are served correctly and on time. Process servers also have experience in locating individuals who may be avoiding service, which can be a difficult task for someone without experience.
Additionally, serving legal documents on your own may not be allowed in certain cases or states. It is important to check with your state’s laws and regulations before attempting to serve papers yourself.
What Happens If a Defendant Is Not Served Properly?
If a defendant is not served properly, it can lead to delays and even the dismissal of the case. This is why it is crucial for process servers to follow the proper protocols and ensure that the papers are served correctly within the required time frame.
In some cases, if a defendant is not served properly, they may be able to contest the service and request for an extension or dismissal of the case. This can be a costly and time-consuming process for both parties involved.
How to Prevent Process Service Errors from Happening?
The best way of avoiding common process service mistakes is to hire a reputable and experienced process server. Make sure to do your research and choose one who is familiar with the local laws and regulations, as well as the specific requirements for your case type.
Additionally, it is important to communicate clearly with your process server and inform them of any potential difficulties or changes in the serving address or time frame. This will allow them to adapt accordingly and avoid any errors.
Regularly following up with your process server and ensuring that all necessary documents have been filed with the court can also help prevent mistakes from happening. As the claimant, you should take an active role in the serving process to ensure a smooth and successful outcome.
Prevention is always better than cure. By being aware of the common process service mistakes and taking the necessary steps to avoid them, you can save time, money, and potential legal complications. Remember to hire a reputable process server and stay informed throughout the process. This way, you can ensure that your court papers are served correctly and that your case will proceed without any hiccups.
For more legal tips and information, please check out the rest of our articles!