What Happens If a Process Server Can't Serve You?

George Simons

April 06, 2021

Hiding from a process server isn't a winning strategy.

Summary: Are you thinking that if you can dodge the process server long enough your debt collection lawsuit will be dismissed? Think again. Learn why the best strategy is to respond to debt collectors, not hide from them.

When a debt collector files a lawsuit against a consumer, there is a legal requirement applicable in courts across the country that the consumer be served with a notice of the impending legal action. This requirement is in place to ensure that the consumer (known as the defendant in the lawsuit) is provided sufficient time to prepare a defense and respond to the allegations contained within the Complaint.

If you are operating under the belief that avoiding the process server and never formally receiving legal documents means a lawsuit cannot move forward, you are mistaken.

While it may be possible to avoid a process server physically for a specific period of time, avoidance does not do much of anything to halt the litigation.

The better option is to simply accept the legal documents from the process server and get to work crafting your response to the lawsuit.

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Personal Service Is Preferred But Not Required

The preferred form of service of process is “personal” service. This entails a process server physically handing legal documents directly to you. However, it is important to understand that service can be completed, even if you did not accept the legal documents from the process server or sign an acknowledgment.

In some instances, whoever answers the door at your residence can be the recipient of the service of process. This is known as “substitute service” (more on this topic below). Other forms of service can be utilized as well. Keep reading to learn more.

If a process server makes repeated attempts to physically serve debt collection legal documents and is unsuccessful, they have other options to complete service of process. Below are examples of some of the most common service options utilized by process servers.

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Other Methods for Service of Process

Although you may think that avoiding a process server is a good way to keep a lawsuit from happening, no matter how hard you try, you can't avoid the suit from proceeding. And if you don't show up to court, you could lose more than you would have if you'd accepted service and fought the case.

  • Certified Mail. After a process server makes multiple attempts to complete service of process in person and fails, they can send the legal documents through the U.S. Postal Service. Service of process can be completed via certified mail as long as the process server can provide proof that the papers were mailed and you reside at the mailing address.

  • Posting on the Door of Your Residence. If in-person service of process is unsuccessful, the plaintiff in your debt collection lawsuit has the option to file a motion with the court seeking authorization that would enable the process server to post the legal documents on your front door.

  • Notice in a Local Newspaper. If a process server has made repeated attempts to reach you and failed, another option is for the court to authorize the plaintiff (i.e. the debt collection agency or creditor) to complete service of process by publishing a notice in a local newspaper. Though, there is a prerequisite that the newspaper is circulated in the area where you reside, along with other criteria.

  • Substitute Service. Some states allow process servers to utilize “substitute service” to complete service of process. Typically, substitute service is sought after other avenues to complete service of process have proven unsuccessful. When substitute service is authorized, a process server will be allowed to simply leave the legal documents with a relative or a roommate at your address.

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Professional Standard for Process Servers

If you were not personally served with a Summons and Complaint related to a debt collection lawsuit and you did not receive the legal documents through an alternative form of service, you may be able to raise a lack of service as a defense in the case. However, it is important to understand the standard that is used to judge the performance of most process servers.

Generally, a process server is required to show that they engaged in sufficient due diligence when attempting to serve the legal documents to you. A process server is required to document that they utilized every available means to locate you. This means that you should expect a process server to make repeated visits to your residence, workplace, etc. if they have difficulty completing service of process.

If a process server is, for whatever reason, unable to personally serve you with a copy of the Summons and Complaint, it does not stop the debt collection lawsuit from going forward. Other avenues can be utilized to complete service of process.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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