Why Hire a Process Server?
Why it is good to hire a Process Server
After filing and before your court hearing you have to perform what is called “service”. This means you have to properly let the person you are suing know that you are suing them, why, and where as well as when the court hearing date and time are. There are 3 main routes to proper “service of process” in a small claims case. They are: Hiring a Process Server, having the court provide service of process via certified mail and having an adult 18 years or older who is not a party to the case serve process. No matter which way you choose, you must provide proof of service to the court prior to 10 days before trial. This is done using an SC-104 form. If you do not properly serve the other side as required by law, the judge will not hear your case and your hearing will be postponed or canceled. Service can also be: personal service, by substitution, by mail, or by publication. By publication is a last resort if no other method can be used and should only be used as such.
A Process Server costs around $65 and is the most effective way to ensure proper service. You must make sure you give your process server the correct address of the individual or business being served. If you know the person you need to serve, I mean really know them (like a neighbor or somebody like that), you can have another adult 18 years or older simply go to their house or apartment when you know they will be there with a copy of everything you have filed, hand it to them, say, “you’ve been served” and walk away. That person needs to then fill out an SC-104 and you must return it to the court clerk. Be sure to allow enough time for service of process. If possible, give yourself at least six weeks for the process of service (i.e., get a court date at least six weeks out). Someone must give each defendant a true copy of the Plaintiff ’s Claim Form (Form SC-100) at least 15 days before the hearing date if the defendant lives in the county in which the claim is filed, or at least 20 days before the hearing date if the defendant lives outside the county in which the claim is filed. If the service was substituted service, add 10 days to each of the two time requirements listed above.
Because service is complicated and must be done properly, it is best to hire a Process Server. One pitfall of service by Court Clerk via certified mail is that if nobody signs, service must be done again and you will be out your $15. Some people just don’t sign for things that come from court. They are like ostriches with their heads in the sand, hoping that things will go away. In this case, if you do not find another proper method of serving process, the small claims case will temporarily go away. This also happens if you provide the wrong address for the defendant. With a Process Server, it is also possible to not have the correct address at first, and this will cause an issue, but you will become aware of the issue in a much timelier manner. The Process Server will inform you that you gave them the wrong address. Usually they will suggest that you pay a small fee for skip tracing (which means they will find the correct address for you) and then you will have to pay another service of process fee. I know you don’t want to spend more money, but an extra $100 of skip tracing and a second address attempt is better than no court hearing at all.