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Car accident and going to Small Claims Court. Alternatives to service of owner?

Redwood City, CA |

Two vehicles collided and one slid into my car. Both parties are pointing fingers at each other, and each insurance company said I needed to go to court to get any judgement. I have located one party, but the second party appears transient. I've hired a PI, made many calls on my own, and have been unable to locate them.

Is there a way for me to serve the Insurance company in her name? Or any other alternatives for service in Small Claims court?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. You can ask the insurance company, but it is doubtful that the insurance company will agree to accept service on the defendant's behalf.

    In small claims court in California, another way to effectuate service of process is by asking the clerk of the court to send it via certified mail with return receipt requested. Of course, you can't use this method unless you have a valid address.

    If you have a last known address, you can send this form the the Postmaster of the city/state/zip code of that person to see if there is a forwarding address on file with the US Postal Service:

  2. I have practiced personal injury law in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for over 20 years, and in so doing have handled many motor vehicle accidents. In my states, when a person registers a car or gets a drivers license they impliedly consent to allow the registrar of motor vehicles accept service on their behalf. Go onto the California DMW website and do a simple search and you will see that your state's laws allow for the same service of process, through the DMV.

    Also, click here:

  3. There are online services that show latest addresses of people.

    Click on name or picture to see profile page.

  4. There are times when a defendant in a personal injury/auto accident case will try and avoid service of process.

    You should file the lawsuit, even in small claims court, and thereafter advise AND serve a copy of the lawsuit on the insurance company. The insurance company has a duty to defend against the lawsuit, but not necessarily in small claims court. The insurance company, will almost in all cases, get in touch with the defendant and advise them of the pending suit so as not to allow a default judgment against the person they insure. If there is a judgment, even a default judgment, and it is covered, the insurance company will have to pay money, and they do not want to have to pay money, so they should contact their client.

    Also, you should contact the small claims advisor in the county that you reside. The small claims advisor is an employee of the court and can guide you through the small claims process and may be able to advise you of other alternatives to serving the lawsuit.

    The information provided is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, documents, comments, answers, emails, or other communications should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information provided is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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