After a car accident in Mobile, you may have the right to sue other parties for your injuries. In the state of Alabama, as in other states, it is required by law that any plaintiff who brings a lawsuit against another party notify that party of the lawsuit. This is known as service of process and each state has rules and regulations governing who can serve legal notices and how they can do it. 

In Alabama, the local sheriff is often called upon to serve papers. However, in many cases, others, known as process servers, will be designated by the court to do so. While some states have thick rulebooks outlining service of process, Alabama’s laws are fairly lax and straightforward.

For example, in order to be a process server in some states, a license is required. Alabama, however, has no licensing requirement, though it does require that process servers be at least 18-years of age and be appointed by the court to serve the papers in question. Outside of those two requirements, just about anyone can be a process server in Alabama.

The Different Methods of Service

There are different ways a process server can get the legal notices they are tasked with delivering into the hands of the individuals that need to be served. The most common way and the way that process servers most commonly try first is in person.

In-person service of process is the primary and most common method of service for two reasons. 

  • First, it is often the easiest way to serve papers to an individual. 
  • Second, is that it is the most reliable. Whereas with other methods of service the process server doesn’t physically see the defendant receive the legal notice, with in-person service they do.

Once in-person service is complete, the process server informs the court clerk in writing which is then noted in the court docket. If, while serving papers a process server attempts to deliver them to the defendant’s home and the defendant is not there, he or she can leave them with someone of a suitable age at the home. 

The process server could also deliver them to an authorized representative of the defendant (i.e. a lawyer). In either case, the process server would need to note who received the legal notice in their proof of service delivered to the court clerk.

If for some reason, in-person service is not possible or hasn’t worked after several attempts, service by certified mail might be deemed proper. If this is the case, the mailing of the legal notice is handled by the court clerk and proof of service is entered into the docket when a return receipt verifying that it has been delivered is received.

In some cases, an individual might refuse in-person service and they might also refuse service by certified mail. If that is the case, the clerk can send the legal notice via ordinary mail. Service is complete as soon as the clerk mails the legal notice.

Service By Publication

Though it is rare, in some cases, if the defendant is a resident of Alabama and has refused or avoided in-person service, and their address is unknown, the court can decide to complete the service by publication. 

If service is to be made by publication, the clerk needs to include certain information, including:

  • A summary of the legal notice
  • Notification that the defendant needs to reply to the notice within 30 days

Finally, the clerk needs to publish the service of notice in a widely circulated newspaper in the country where the legal action is taken. If there is no newspaper in that county, then it needs to be published in a newspaper in an adjoining county. The notice also needs to be published at least once per week for four weeks in a row.

As soon as the publisher provides written proof that the notice has been published in his or her paper for four consecutive weeks, service will be marked as complete in the court docket.