If you suddenly notice an unfamiliar person lurking around your home or workplace, they may not be a suspicious stranger – it could be a process server trying to locate and deliver legal documents specifically to you.
Process servers are professional agents appointed by the court to “serve” or formally deliver legal notices, summons, subpoenas, and other case-related documents to parties involved in a lawsuit or legal proceeding. Their primary responsibility is to track down individuals named on these court orders and hand-deliver the paperwork directly to them or someone authorized on their behalf.
So if you find a process server on your heels, it likely means you are connected to some type of pending legal action and have important papers to receive regarding court hearings, deadlines, or rulings you must respond to promptly. Here are the top 10 common reasons a process server may be aggressively trying to find you right now:
You Are Being Sued
One of the most frequent reasons a process server is unable to locate you is because a lawsuit has been filed against you. The server’s job is to deliver the summons and complaint that formally notifies you about the case and allows it to proceed. Lawsuits arise over all types of disputes – unpaid debts, foreclosures, contracts, personal injuries, employment issues, divorce, and more. Once you are properly served, you have a limited time (usually 20-30 days) to respond or a default judgment may be entered against you. So don’t dodge process servers – it will only make the situation worse!
You Are a Witness in a Case
Process servers often track down people who may have witnessed an event or have information relevant to a legal case. You may be served a subpoena ordering you to provide testimony, documentation, or tangible evidence related to an active criminal or civil lawsuit. Ignoring the subpoena could lead to charges of contempt of court.
You Must Appear in Court
Court clerks dispatch process servers when they need to formally notify citizens to show up for hearings, trials, and other proceedings. If a judge has ordered you to be present in court on a specific date and time, be sure to cooperate with the process server so you know when, where, and why you must appear.
Foreclosure on Your Property
When homeowners fall too far behind on mortgage payments, lenders will have process servers deliver foreclosure notices alerting that they plan to repossess the property. You’ll get paperwork that explains your rights and time limits to respond – usually just 30 days to pay off the loan default or make other arrangements. Don’t let the embarrassment stop you from facing the process server – it’s the only way to save your home if possible.
Eviction from a Rental
Landlords normally have to go to court to formally evict non-paying tenants from a rental property. Process servers will track down renters to deliver notices explaining why they are being evicted (typically for not paying rent), when they must vacate, and options for challenging the eviction. If you’ve been a problem tenant, cooperating with the process server can help you avoid having an eviction on your record.
Collection of Unpaid Bills
When you stop paying bills – loans, credit cards, medical expenses, etc. – creditors will often engage process servers to deliver legal notices informing you that they may pursue further action if you don’t pay. It’s means they want to get your attention before sending the debts to collection agencies or suing for repayment. Don’t ignore these notices – contact the creditor to see if you can work out a payment plan.
Process servers are frequently hired to track down business owners, company executives, and partners to serve them official notices related to commercial disputes. Common situations include breach of contract lawsuits between businesses or labor disputes between employers and employees. Legal action can often be avoided if both parties communicate from the start.
Divorce and Family Matters
Family court cases require both parties (and sometimes children) to be officially served before proceedings like divorce, child support, or custody hearings can commence. Process servers have to personally locate estranged spouses and family members who may be difficult to find, especially when emotions run high. Don’t let bitterness stop you from being served – it only drags out the pain.
Probate Issues After a Death
When a person dies and leaves behind assets that must be distributed from their will or estate, process servers help deliver notifications and legal orders to all family members and beneficiaries involved. Though grieving the loss, heirs still need to comply with court procedures to settle the estate.
After traffic incidents like DUI arrests or accidents where you’re deemed at fault, process servers will ensure you receive court documents regarding any charges, fines, license suspensions, mandatory court dates, and options to contest the violations. Don’t try hiding from the process server – traffic offenses often escalate to arrest warrants and more penalties if you avoid the case.
As you can see, process servers are mainly just doing their job delivering time-sensitive documents tied to your legal rights and responsibilities. While being served initially feels invasive and adversarial, it’s important not to overreact or make the situation worse by dodging process servers. That will only delay inevitable court orders and may spur additional penalties against you for “avoiding service”.
The best plan is to accept whatever papers you are being served courteously and quickly. Then study the documents carefully and seek legal assistance if needed to make smart decisions responding to lawsuit notices, subpoenas, foreclosures, divorce petitions, and other legal actions against you. Complying with process servers shows maturity, protects your rights, and prevents stressful cases from escalating further.