Monday, March 9, 2020
Editor’s note: This article by Lori and Lefty Ford was originally posted on our ServeNow Facebook Community. The opinions expressed here belong to Lori and Lefty Ford.
It is the new year and a very active time for process servers everywhere. We are busy preparing previous year reports, taxes, boxing old files, running new serves, re-registration, even more new serves. It’s so easy to get off track with all we do and easy to forget some of our most important responsibilities to ourselves and co-workers. Do you know the signs of an unsafe serve? Have you taken refresher courses on what to do in a dangerous situation? Listed are seven tips for a safe return home from a serve. Keep your sub-contractors updated and pass it along as safety is priority number one.
Don’t forget to ask your client about the person you will be serving. Learning about drug or alcohol use, previous charges, and if the person expects the service. This information is crucial to warn you about the coming situation.
Looking at some of the papers you will serve can give you some insight into the defendant’s character. Beware of domestic dispute charges or restraining orders. Check Erin’s List for the address or name to see if other process servers have served and had issues.
Park your car like you need to make a quick escape. Avoid parking in driveways or areas where you can get trapped. If the situation turns sour, you want to get away quickly.
When approaching a gated or fenced area, rattle the gate, whistle, and watch for dogs. If there is no response, enter with caution.
You can easily see the outside of houses and apartments, but anything and anyone could be inside. Stay outside and make sure to back away from the door after knocking to appear less threatening. Stay on the doorknob side in order to not give the individual an opportunity to be the aggressor with the advantage of a partially open door. If the person invites you inside, politely decline. Never cross the threshold.
The person could be having a bad day or may react strongly when you serve them. They may become emotional, but the best way to defuse an emotional response is remaining calm and logically responding to them. Make sure to leave quickly if remaining calm does not diffuse the situation.
After you complete a serve, some people may have many questions for you. To keep the interaction brief, tell them you have not looked at the papers and have “no further information.” We are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice. Responding in this way will decrease the chances of them blaming you for improper service and help you leave more quickly.
Just as in a boxing match, protect yourself at all times. Keep an eye on all potential danger and that includes the person you are serving. Even if they have been completely polite so far, they may be waiting for you to drop your guard. Always be respectful while talking and interacting with the person you are serving, but always keep yourself safe.
Whatever gear you use, make sure it’s all together before you serve. Double-check your vest to make sure it is not expired. Make sure your mace is full and that the tips are not broken. If you carry a gun, make sure it’s clean and that you’re up-to-date on all the registrations and laws. Also, keep in practice. Attend a class that refreshes you in all aspects of gun safety and regularly use your weapon at a legal range.
Check your emergency car repair kits and first aid to ensure you are prepared for any accidents or mishaps. A tire jack and battery jumper are both expensive but extremely helpful gear when spending so much time on the road. If you have neither of those, consider a AAA membership for roadside assistance.
Double-check that your flashlight is in working order with a working bulb and charged battery. Also, check those taser batteries. When in doubt, change all batteries out and carry an extra set.
If you use ServeManager, you can have the job created and can save the attempt before you go to serve. The details can be filled in later. The benefits of doing this are that the GPS and time stamp are captured and that you don’t have to remain on the property to fill out service details. Not having to remain at the service address to document is especially useful for safety reasons.
Stay safe and prepared, not just at the start of the New Year, but every day.
By Lori and Lefty Ford, your friends at Right2Left, LLC., a private process serving company serving Missouri and Kansas.