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You Just Got Served Papers! Now What Do You Do?

Updated on March 8, 2022
Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak is a former Chicago process server who spent ten years serving process to the fine people of Cook County, Illinois.

I Can Speak From Experience.

Not only have I been served before, I have been on the other side too, serving people papers. In another life, I was a process server. But before that, I was a kid working two jobs and going to college all the while without health insurance. Bear with me as I give you a little bit of background.

First came a late night of drinking. Then came a dumb drunk move on my bicycle. Then a giant swelled-up purple and green ankle. Then after some quality care at a great American hospital I received a giant swelled-up bill, thousands of dollars that I was responsible for. So shortly thereafter I was served legal papers so that the various billing parties could garnish my wages and get their money. My stubborn, young, empty, angst-riddled wallet certainly wasn't going to open up on it's own! Boy did I play the fool back then.

Here's the thing, if you get served, it's not the end of the world. It certainly may feel that way I know. But whatever you do, please do not kill the messenger. Granted, not all Process Servers and Sheriff's are cheery, happy little flowers that will perk right up when they have served you a summons. But believe it or not, they are working for you as much as they are working for the party that is suing you. Take it in perspective. Whether you get served or not, whoever you owe money to, or owe a day in court to for whatever reason, they're going to get you there one way or another. If you have been served, you get to see it coming. If you avoid it, or say, "The hell with this, I'm not doing this!" If a judge finds out that's your sentiment, here comes a warrant out for you. Or maybe they go to your bank and just take the money. Or you get pulled over with a broken signal on your car and they see the warrant, guess where you're headed? To the AutoZone to get a new blinker bulb? Nope, to the Big House my friend. Then straight to court. There are also any other number of things that are legal to do but that most people don't realize.

This Isn't as Bad as You Might Think!

Someone just served you legal papers, how should you respond?
Someone just served you legal papers, how should you respond?

Play It Smart Cochise.

So don't be a block head. Don't yell or threaten the person serving you, please! You don't yell at the Letter Carrier when she brings you your huge credit card bill do you? Take a look at the legal papers in front of you. If it's a Subpoena there's good news and bad news. The good news is there's often a check attached, cash money. But mainly it's because they want you to testify. If it is a Subpoena, or a Rule, be extra careful. These are the two most strict legal documents you could receive, whatever's going on at this point is pretty damn important. The bad news is, if you avoid one of these documents, it might mean they instantly issue a warrant for you.

If it's a Summons or a Citation, somewhere, usually at the top is the most important information. The court date, location, time, etc. Sometimes the reason is on the front page, sometimes it's on one of many, many, many pages thereafter.

Usually there will be a contact number for the law firm that is suing you at the bottom of the page. Lots of people try calling and getting out of their court date, good luck. You may have a million and one chance of that. If you have a way to 100% resolve the legal dispute, say you know you owe $2000 bucks and you call and say you can pay it, they may accept this, still not likely though. But here's where a lot of people go wrong. They don't realize that getting served and going to court can possibly work in your advantage. This is a chance for you to try to negotiate your debt, or whatever problem it is you have. Running away from your service is like tipping the checkers board over when you sit down to play, it makes you look infantile.

Take service for what it is, your right. You know why we have process serving? Because in the old days of Merry Old England if they would post a notice somewhere in town and if you didn't see it, you missed your date. Then they threw you in debtors prison. So in other words, as legal systems have evolved, they try to give people a chance to defend themselves first. This is your chance, don't blow it. Don't play the fool.

So when the day comes, go to your court date. Responsibility pays off. Don't spend your life creating alias' and wondering which furniture to hide behind when the doorbell rings. Take the reigns, or someone will take them for you.

Look for legal advice, it's out there. You can find it. Look for my next article on how to find legal help, or call in that favor to that distant relative you know who knows a guy. Take care, you'll be better off if you do.

You've Been Served!


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