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Had an automobile accident in California. How do I serve him if he lives out of state in Illinois?

San Diego, CA |

Automobile was damaged and needs repairs. Insurance is not paying full amount required to make me whole. I will be filing suite in California court. I need to serve a party that hit me in California but lives and owns business in Illinois.

Do I only pay the fee if the party is successfully served?

Do I find process server in Illinois or do I find a process server in Calif who then deals with finding a server in Illinois?

What is the typical cost for doing this?

The party I am suing is Owner/CEO of a business in Illinois, family member is President. Can the process server serve the party at work even if he isn't at work?

I also have a home address that he owns according to county records. Not sure if he lives there or rents it out. Not sure the best way to figure this out?

Attorney Answers 8


  1. There are various less burdensome methods for serving an out of state defendant who has caused an auto accident in California. You can serve through mail and also through the California Secretary of State. It sounds like you are doing this in small claims court - many courts have small claims advisors who could guide you through this process. You might also look for an Avvo or Nolo Press guide on this topic.


  2. Since the defendant is out of state, your best bet is to try to serve him by certified mail, return receipt requested. See Section 415.40 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.


  3. I use a service that guarantees service of process anywhere or no fee. But if they are succesful the fee is usually around $250.00. Pretty steep for a small claims case. And even if the court orders that you can recover your costs the judge probably won't allow that much. So as the others have said, take a look at the asistance guides at the small claims court to find a less costly method.


  4. Certified mail/return receipt req

    Licensed & have offices in PA & NJ ONLY. (Philadelphia, PA & Marlton, NJ)


  5. Cert. mail may work best for you if in small claims.


  6. You should hire local counsel to represent you.

    Offices in San Diego and Carlsbad, California. Attorney's direct line 619-233-6078. The responses here are not intended as legal advice. Do not rely upon the responses herein. Consult an attorney. Strict time limits apply and failure to act within those time limits will result in a complete loss of all rights to seek legal redress.


  7. If certified mail does not work, you should sent the paperwork to the county sheriff where the defendant lives and have the sheriff serve the guy. You should be able to recover the cost of service as part of your court costs if you win.


  8. All the servers I know charge for their attempts. If unsuccessful, there is still a fee. You can check on the internet for a process server local to where he lives. provide them with the Calif proof of service so they can complete it properly. if you go thru a local process server where you live, which you can do, you will pay more as the middle man will want something for his time.