Process servers play an integral role for collection agencies and attorneys in helping to uphold the principle of due process.
Specifically, it is a process server’s job to act as an independent third party when hired by a collection agency or collection attorney to deliver court documents to defendants and witnesses in a timely manner so those recipients may appear in court and protect their interests. Process service deliveries have been difficult to track in the past, resulting in accusations of documents not being delivered. Until now, these disputes have come down to the process server’s word versus that of the defendant, with both sides offering little substantive proof as to whether or not documents were properly served.
Defendants who actively avoid service to delay legal proceedings may also claim they were not served as an added avoidance strategy. Process servers who are compensated only for successful service can also be financially motivated to say they served a party in order to complete their job, when in actuality nobody ever answered the door. The respective motivations are self-evident and both scenarios can play out from time to time. So what is the industry doing to make sure important legal documents are delivered accurately in lawsuits?
The industry’s leading process service companies are now deploying sophisticated technology and mobile devices to add substantive evidence that legal documents are properly served and that collections agencies and attorneys are providing defendants proper notice of legal proceedings. Process serving companies can track and record the movement of their process servers to protect the integrity of the legal system and eliminate faulty service.
With the proper technology solution in place, ethical conduct can be measured and rewarded financially just as successful service has been in the past. The following tools are currently being used by the industry’s leading process serving companies to ensure service has been made:
- Global Positioning System (GPS) – GPS apps quickly and easily navigate process servers to delivery locations, increasing logistical efficiency. GPS also enables one to record the GPS coordinates for each service event, providing objective, factual data judges can use to rule on service.
- Property photos –Delivery address photos add visual evidence that a process server was actually at the service location at the date and time of service. Process servers can snap digital photos of a property address, which can objectively validate that a process server (or at least his/her phone) was at the service location.
- Mobile applications – Some companies are developing applications for smartphone and tablet devices that incorporate the unique business rules of the law firms and their clients, down to the plaintiff, venue and case level.
- Analytics – Once a process service company is using barcodes and smartphones, suddenly they have meaningful data around logistics, timelines and tendencies. This data can be used to build a profile of each process server and that process server’s relative correlation to historical and group norms, which enables analysts to find outliers both in terms of positive performance and/or undesirable, rogue tendencies, which could lead to undue risk. Smarter software makes it possible for an employer to reward its process servers for honest, complete and ethical deliveries. More sophisticated process service software looks at the route the process server takes between locations, the travel time between those stops, and even the percentage served personally versus substitute service. The result is that illogical routes, impossible travel times and statistical outliers for service type normalization can all be flagged for further audit review before an affidavit of service is ever filed with the court.
Progressive process serving companies today are investing in these types of technologies and business processes to help prevent process server fraud. However, some collections agencies and attorneys are still choosing process servers solely on price and not on the due diligence and precautionary measures their companies have in place. In addition, courts oftentimes restrict the fees process servers can charge based upon publicly-subsidized Sheriff fees, resulting in continued process service fraud. It is important for collections agencies to understand what measures are in place with the process servers they use to ensure they are safeguarded from false claims of non-delivery and make sure the process serving companies they hire are enforcing ethical process serving practices using the right technology.