What Exactly Can a Process Server Do To Serve Papers?

Service of process is one of the critical procedures of the lawsuit process, including personal injury cases involving car accidents and slips and falls. After the plaintiff’s attorney files the complaint in court to initiate the lawsuit, they must provide the opposing party with copies of court documents. This is what’s referred to as “service of process.”

“Process” refers to the documents used to initiate a lawsuit. These documents include the summons, which informs the defendant of the impending lawsuit against them, and the complaint, detailing the allegations made against them. Service must be effected within a reasonable time at the start of the lawsuit. 

Who Can Serve Documents?

Rules for service of process vary by state. However, generally, a person can serve another person as long as they are at least 18 years old, a citizen or a legal resident, and are not connected to the case. 

Typically, attorneys get sheriffs, private detectives, or process servers to handle the service of process to the opposing party. Process servers are individuals dedicated to serving court documents. They have the tools to locate and deliver documents to designated parties and provide the necessary proof of service. 

What a Process Server Can Do

Process servers can perform their duties in certain ways, depending on state law. In general, a process server can affect personal service or substituted service. 

Personal Service

Personal service means the process server hands the designated individual process in person, whether at their home, job, or other public location. 

Personal service is usually best. However, it’s not uncommon for defendants to expect it and try to evade service. Fortunately, process servers are skilled at locating individuals and can get creative in finding and serving people.

Substituted Service

When a process server cannot serve an individual personally, they can refer to a substituted service. The types of substituted service allowed vary by state, so it’s important to understand state law to ensure a party is served properly.

In Illinois, a party can receive service of process in other ways, including leaving a copy of the summons at the party’s home with a family member or resident who is over 13 years old. Depending on the type of case, service can also be done through certified mail. 

When it’s not practical to serve someone in traditional ways, a judge may order an electronic service method, including email or text message.

What a Process Server Cannot Do

Process servers must stay within certain parameters to avoid any trouble. While they can use some creativity to find and serve the target parties, they cannot take it too far.


Process servers cannot lie about who they are or what they’re trying to do. When attempting to serve, they must identify themselves properly and explain their purpose. 

Commit a Crime

It is never acceptable for a process server to commit a crime while trying to serve court documents. Process servers cannot break into someone’s home, trespass onto another’s property, or do anything that could get them in legal trouble. 

Use Force

A process server cannot physically force anyone to take the papers. Even if the target individual doesn’t touch the papers, it doesn’t mean service hasn’t been affected. A process server is allowed to tell a person they’ve been served without putting the papers in their hands. 

Should I Hire a Process Server?

Discuss hiring a process server with your attorney. Usually, your attorney will handle that part of your case. Lawyers commonly have process servers they work with to handle serving documents on opposing parties, so you don’t have to worry about it. 

Contact Our Chicago Personal Injury Law Firm For Help Today

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Chicago, Illinois, and need legal help, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers at Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today.

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