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Server's Corner

Which is the Better Alternative - Process Server or Local Sheriff

Which is the Better Alternative - Process Server or Local Sheriff?

Sheriff Looking to Serve Legal Documents

Service of process is a primary step in commencing a civil lawsuit in the United States. Service of process is the legal step designed to provide the defendant in a lawsuit with official notice of the claims being made in the proceeding.

In some jurisdictions, a plaintiff in a lawsuit is able to utilize the services of any adult without a direct involvement in a lawsuit to serve court papers on the opposing party. Because these individuals are untrained, this is not typically the best alternative in a case. Rather, most parties commencing lawsuits turn to a deputy sheriff or a registered, professional server.

A deputy sheriff or a professional process server are both authorized to undertake this crucial task of serving process and the complaint or petition on the defendant in a lawsuit. The issue becomes whether a deputy sheriff or professional process server is better suited to undertake serving process to commence a lawsuit.

Survey of Law Office Personnel

A recent survey of about 100 legal secretaries and paralegals focused on the question of who is better to effect service on a defendant. According to the survey results, the polled legal professionals were strongly in favor of professional servers. 78 percent of legal professionals rated professional servers better than deputies. Many of the respondents indicated that they use professional servers far more often than deputies.

Knowledge, Speed, Success, Cost

The same survey participants also made clear that the generally believe that the professional server option is preferred because these individuals are more knowledgeable about the whole service process. In addition, those legal professionals polled also made it clear that professional servers completed their tasks more efficiently and enjoyed a higher rate of successful service. They also noted the cost involved in professional process service was also reasonable.

Closer Examination of Service Success Rate

The stark reality is that a person or business cannot proceed with a lawsuit unless and until proper service is made on a defendant. The poll results reveal that the service success rate using a professional process server is 92 percent. On the other hand, the success rate utilizing deputy sheriff officers is 74 percent.

Better Customer Service with Private Process Service

The legal professionals also reported that they received batter customer service when utilizing the professional alternative over a sheriff's department. They were not unnecessarily singling out sheriff deputies for criticism. Rather, the survey respondents noted that sheriff departments had many other significant duties beyond serving summons and petitions or complaints. On the other hand, serving process is all a professional server undertakes.

A Look at Cost

Although it is true that using a private provider of process services is more expensive, the cost differential is not that significant. In fact, on average, the difference between the cost associated with private versus deputy sheriff service of process is $14.41. When the cost differential is contrasted with the other significant benefits associated with private process service, the professional alternative nearly always trumps the sheriff's office.

By James D Roland 4-19-2017