Serving legal papers is a crucial step when you’re suing someone. Legally, the defendant must receive written notice before the court date. Without taking steps to serve the other party, your lawsuit may be delayed or dismissed.

There are multiple reasons for suing people. Car accidents claim tens of thousands of lives each year, and millions more suffer property damage or personal injuries in auto accidents. You may be filing for divorce. You may also have grounds to sue someone for failing to repay a debt. No matter what’s prompting your legal action, you may find it challenging to serve papers if you don’t know the defendant’s address. Use these tips to ensure they’re served so you can proceed with your lawsuit.

Find their address.

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Performing a web search may help you locate the person you seek. You can also search their name on social media sites and find critical information from their posts. For example, perhaps they’ve posted a picture of themselves at home on Facebook. You can use EXIF data from photos to access the GPS coordinates of the photo, enabling you to find their exact location.

You can also use an online people search service to find crucial information about the person you seek. ProPeopleSearch searches court documents, arrest records, financial reports, and social media sites to locate people with that name. Use their report to verify the person’s home address and phone number. Once you’re armed with this information, you’re ready to take the next steps required to have the person served.

You can also entrust this task to your legal team. Suppose you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident and a loved one was killed. You may be pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. A defective product may have caused your accident. For example, a faulty airbag could deploy while you’re driving, resulting in an accident with serious injuries. You could pursue a lawsuit against a property owner for negligence if their carelessness caused your injuries. You could be suing someone for damages stemming from a workplace accident.

Suppose you’re pursuing a personal injury case, seeking compensation for medical bills. If your injuries occurred in Northern California, hire a San Jose personal injury attorney. Your personal injury law firm will gather relevant information to build your case. You may be receiving treatment for a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury and cannot look for the defendant—contact personal injury law firms for a free consultation. When you hire a law firm, you can let them hand the task over to one of their private investigators, who’ll draw on their years of experience to secure the defendant’s home address.

Decide how to have the defendant served.

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Once you have the defendant’s address, you must decide how to deliver the papers. First, you can send the legal notices via certified mail. Then, when you receive the legal paperwork from the court, you can pay an extra fee to have them send the notice. The defendant will be required to sign when they receive the certified mail, establishing proof they’ve received the documents.

The disadvantage of using certified mail is that the defendant may refuse to accept the mail. Instead of using certified mail, you can hire a delivery service or your local sheriff. The hired party delivers the court papers to the defendant, establishing proof of delivery.

Suppose you opted to hire a private investigator to locate the defendant on your behalf. You could also opt to have your private investigator serve the papers to the defendant. Your investigator may be a primary witness during a trial, notably if you also hired them to find evidence of negligence contributing to your accident. Since your investigator may be appearing in court already, they can testify they served the defendant.

Serving legal papers to someone begins with finding their address. Perform web searches, online people searches, or hire experts to locate the defendant. Once you locate them, you can serve them via certified mail or hire a delivery service, your local sheriff, or your private investigator to serve the papers. Your law firm may also be able to serve the papers on your behalf.