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.
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.
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.
Certified mail/return receipt req
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You should hire local counsel to represent you.
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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.
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.