To Serve a Defendant; What it All Means

Being served isn’t something you really want to ever be on the receiving end of. Typically when someone is served, they have done something wrong and it has not been/cannot be resolved properly, which then requires the courts to get involved for a more formal proceeding often meaning . Below you will see what it actually means and some of the most common types of service in the personal injury field.

Service of the Defendant(s)

  • Service puts the defendant on notice that he or she is being sued and gives the court jurisdiction over the defendant.  Without proper service of the summons and complaint, the case cannot proceed.
  • This process can sometimes take several months, particularly if a Defendant has moved. The four most common ways to serve a defendant are the following: Certified Mail, Sheriff, Acceptance of Service or Publication.

Service by Certified Mail

  • Involves mailing a copy of the lawsuit through the United States Postal Service and requesting a return receipt with signature confirmation. A notice will be left at the defendant’s home if he/she is not home at the time of delivery.  Time frame: 7 – 15 days.  The postage fee for certified mail/return receipt requested typically starts at $6.69 or more depending on the weight/size of the package.

Service by Sheriff

  • The sheriff will make at least one visit to the defendant’s dwelling or business to try to serve the defendant. Time frame: 30 days.  The Sheriff’s office currently charges $30 per defendant.

By Acceptance of Service

  •  If the insurance carrier has assigned hired defense counsel we will ask if they are willing to accept service on their client’s behalf.  The defense counsel will normally agree to this arrangement if they are able to locate/contact their client and obtain authority to accept service on their behalf. If so, we will prepare an Acceptance of Service for the defense counsel to sign and file with the Court.

Service by Publication

  • This involves publishing a Notice of Service by Publication once a week for 3 consecutive weeks in a qualified newspaper (circulated in the area where the defendant is located).  This is usually a last resort due to cost/burden on client. The newspaper will charge our firm anywhere from $190  to over $600 to publish our Notice.

Upon completing service, an affidavit of service must be filed with the Clerk’s office in order to proceed on with litigation.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident at the hands of another, call us today. We’re here to help. Always a free consultation, and there’s never a fee unless we obtain a settlement offer for you. With convenient office locations in Charlotte, Gastonia, Hickory and Rock Hill, SC we have experienced legal professionals just a short drive away. Call today 704-333-0885.


Written by: Wendy Arieta-Zelaya, Litigation Paralegal