What is Service of Process and How Does it Affect My Virginia Car Accident Case?

Once you have filed a lawsuit in either the General District Court, Circuit Court or Federal Court, you will need to request service on the defendant. This must be done through the Sheriff's Office or by using a third-party private process service.  The Sheriff or private process server will pick up the prepared lawsuit from the Clerk's office and take them to the address identified in the suit for the defendant or deliver them in person to the defendant. 

If you have filed a Virginia car accident injury case, you a time limit of one year from the date the lawsuit is filed to serve the Complaint on the Defendant.  If the defendant cannot be located, then you must attempt alternative methods for service of the lawsuit such as service through the Department of Motor Vehicles and other means. The purpose of service is to ensure the defendant is aware of the lawsuit.  Sometimes service can be difficult to perfect because the defendant may have moved within the state or out-of-state. In the event where the defendant moves out-of-state, you must serve the lawsuit through alternative means. 

Most often attorneys request service on the defendant when the file a personal injury case in Virginia.  In some instances service might not be immediately requested for strategic purposes or other reasons.
In Virginia, What happens after my after my personal injury case has been served?

Once service has been performed, by either leaving the documents at the home of the defendant or by in-person service, the case is now actively in litigation. The defendant will need to file an Answer to the Complaint within twenty-one (21) days of the date of service. It is important to keep track of service and not to wait too close to the year mark. Sometimes unknown circumstances can create an issue for service, or the defendant could have moved and it takes time to locate a new address. You do not want to take unnecessary risks that could result in your case being dismissed, so make sure that you serve your case at least several months before the statute runs.
Do other documents require service?

Service is also required of subpoenas, whether it be a subpoena duces tecum for records or documents or a witness subpoena, these legal documents must be served by the Sheriff's Office or by a private process server.
How much does it cost?

Service through the Sheriff's Office typically runs at about $12.00. Service through a private process service company runs anywhere from $50 - $75. While it may be cheaper to serve through the Sheriff's Office, there is no guarantee that the documents will be served quickly. You have more control over when your documents are served if you use a private process service, as they may offer service within 1-2 days of their receipt of the documents. A Sheriff's Office can take a week or more before the documents are served.

 


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