The process of service industry is small. So small, in fact, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t collect statistics on process servers. The BLS lumps them into reports on sheriffs and sheriff’s deputies.
However small, the process service industry is one with a rich history and many advantages.
In order for courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the defendant must have notice of the proceedings. This is the basis of the Due Process clauses in the United States Constitution.
To provide proper notice, courts require that plaintiffs serve defendants with a court summons and a copy of the complaint. The word “process” defines these documents.
But plaintiffs don’t serve process on their own. They often arrange for service of process by a process server.
Process servers are a disinterested third party. They provide all parties with proof of service after delivery. They complete the process under all laws and in a reliable manner.
So, how did all this begin, and what does the future hold? Keep reading to learn more about new trends in the process service industry.
The History of Process Service
Process serving was first established as a need by the Magna Carta in 1215.
The Magna Carta outlined the right to due process. It stated that no man could be “taken or imprisoned, lose his land, be outlawed or banished, or have officers sent against him except with lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”
In the Constitution, the Founding Fathers borrow from the Magna Carta. The Fifth Amendment states that no one will be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
All courts and legal systems have to adhere to the Fifth Amendment. This ensures the fair and appropriate treatment of all parties. Due process ensures that every person has the right to know when summoned to court.
As America expanded, it was more difficult to issue court orders to individuals who had moved. As people caught on, some left their towns to avoid court summons. This is when people began to hire the first process servers.
The process servers had the difficult job of tracking people down before the digital age. There was no Internet to help them find people.
In 982, the National Association of Professional Process Services established rules and guidelines for process service. Today, process servers and organizations register with the NAPPS to guarantee they’re doing their jobs legally.
Now that you know how it all began, let’s talk about the future of process service.
The Future of Process Service
Today, court notices are often delivered by mail or sent electronically, but many people still prefer to use process servers.
So, where is the industry headed? Let’s take a look at five trends forecasting the future of the process service industry.
The biggest trend in today’s process service industry is the adoption of new technology and e-service.
The original method of process service isn’t the most practical or efficient way to deliver documents. Today, there are ways for courts and parties to serve documents online. This is much faster and more reliable than using a process server on foot.
But there are some advances in technology that work in process servers’ favor. One is the development of process serving mobile applications.
Process servers can now use an app to simplify and streamline the delivery of process. These apps make it easy to confirm a defendant’s location, record the details of delivery, and send confirmation of receipt to all parties.
These applications give servers the tools to stay organized and quickly move to the next serve in their queue.
These advances in technology force companies and industries to catch up. Those who do not are often left behind.
2. Increasing Violence
Process servers often come across defendants in emotionally troubled states, especially in today’s politically charged ecosystem.
When emotions are high and defendants are taken by surprise, they sometimes take their anger out on the server. Process servers have been seriously injured, and even killed, while doing their jobs.
Violence has been a concern of process servers since the beginning. It is a very real danger that requires employees to be protected by law. Many industry professionals believe that assaults on process servers aren’t getting adequate news coverage.
In 2012, ServeNow, a process service organization, launched a campaign called Promoting Assault Awareness and Protective Regulations for Servers (PAAPRS). The campaign collected evidence to support the need for legislation to protect process servers. It pushed the issue of assault on process servers to the forefront with lawmakers.
Several states now have legislation prohibiting interference with service of process, but it continues to be a serious concern.
3. Law Enforcement
Sheriffs and law enforcement often work with process servers in tandem, but sometimes they interfere with the process.
In some states, documents filed through the court system go to the sheriff first. If law enforcement officers don’t let local process servers into their network, they can become an obstacle to process service via process servers.
Police officers are qualified to deliver process. They can certainly track down elusive subjects, but it’s time-consuming. Their time can and should be spent protecting the community, as process server organizations have teams and resources dedicated to locating defendants.
4. Independent Contractors
More and more process servers are entering the industry as independent contractors. Many process service agencies cannot justify hiring full-time employees.
Adversely, organizations are nervous to hire independent contractors because they worry about their ability to stay professional. They don’t want to hire contract workers that may negatively impact the industry.
The line between contractor and employee can be blurry, but it’s important to highlight the difference. Companies have to take into account how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will view employees.
Recent rulings, such as one by the California Supreme Court last year, have made it difficult for process service companies to continue to classify employees as contract workers.
California law now states that an independent contractor cannot perform the same services as the company. This means that if you are a process service company, you must classify contractors as employees if they serve your process.
Once workers are presumed to be employees, they are protected by regulations governing wages, hours, and working conditions. These new rules prompt process serving businesses to look into insurance options and consult with legal counsel to forge a path forward.
5. No Service No Fee Regulations
Some regulations have come about relating to “no service, no fee” that will likely hurt the process service industry.
Name an industry where employees give up their valuable time for free. This doesn’t happen because it reduces the quality of work. But this is now what is expected of process servers in many states.
When a process server is unable to complete service, they aren’t paid. This means they aren’t driven to return to an address of an individual that’s never present. Because of the time involved and there is no guarantee of payment, the server is more likely to move on to the next service.
When service isn’t fulfilled, clients are frustrated and will be less likely to use a private process server in the future. No service, no fee regulations are hurting the future of the private process service industry.
The process service industry continues to evolve, but the future is bright if contractors and agencies evolve with it.
In a changing industry, it’s important to protect your business. The first step to doing so is to make the right insurance decision. The liability of not having insurance outweighs the cost of the right policy.
Contact us today to begin building an insurance solution that mitigates all of your risks.