Serving Papers to the Disabled
- October 21, 2019
- by Stephanie Irvine
While the task at hand may be the same, process servers will tell you that every serve is different. Serving the disabled puts servers in a unique situation because the circumstances may require a server to effectuate service a little bit differently, and it may even present challenges for process servers unfamiliar with the correct protocol. An individual could be deemed physically disabled if he or she is incapacitated, in a coma, or is living with other types of disabilities.
Process servers have to be certain that they complete the serve appropriately under the guidance of the law. Keep reading to learn what you need to do as a server to ensure you have effectuated service properly.
Service in a Hospital
Because service may need to be effectuated when someone has been recently injured or sick before they have been deemed disabled, you may find yourself having to serve someone in the hospital. If you are given the task of serving an individual who is currently in a hospital, you will want to see if you also need to serve the person in charge at the hospital, as some states’ laws dictate that this is necessary.
If you do need to serve an individual who works at a hospital, it is important to double-check whether it is the hospital being sued or an employee. If the hospital is being sued, you will need to serve the registered agent for the hospital. If you are serving an employee, such as a nurse or doctor, it may be easier to serve them at home or in the office, as hospitals are large facilities with plenty of restricted access. If you must serve them at the hospital, be sure to allocate a lot of time as you may need to wait for the doctor or nurse’s availability, and it may take a while to locate them.
You must also respect other patient’s privacy as there are HIPAA laws in place, and you will want to refer to your state’s laws on civil process to see if there are any restrictions on serving an individual in a hospital.
Serving the Guardian for Incapacitated Individuals
If you have to serve someone who is incapacitated or otherwise disabled, you will likely need to also serve his or her guardian. This is true in many cases in which an individual has Power of Attorney over another individual, such as in cases of severe mental deficit and/or dementia, among other medical conditions. In some cases, you may be able to serve the individual at his or her place of residence as long as it is in front of a competent adult. As always, be sure to check with your state’s specific regulations regarding service of process as state laws vary.
Serving Physically Disabled Individuals
Individuals who are physically disabled should be served in the same manner as someone without a physical disability, insofar as that they have the mental capacity to understand and accept service. If the individual has both a physical and mental disability, please reference serving incapacitated individuals.
Handling the Service Affidavit
When you have an atypical serve (e.g., service on someone in a hospital or someone who is disabled) you will want to ensure that you document the service with every detail possible. No detail is too small to omit as it is better to be safe than sorry.
No matter who you are serving, it is important to always be professional, empathetic, and respectful. Additionally, until civil process service laws are federally mandated, be sure to check with the state in which the service will occur to be sure you are serving in accordance with the proper laws.