July 14, 2020
Serving a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Georgia on an Out of State Defendant
Usually, serving a lawsuit is pretty simple. We give the papers to the process server and they take them and serve them. But what if the defendant, the person that caused the accident, lives in another state? What if they live in New Jersey or Alaska and you’re sitting here in Georgia? Well, that’s where the Georgia Nonresident Motorist Act can come in handy. What it says is, if you follow a few elements, you can serve the Georgia Secretary of State instead of serving the nonresident motorist.
So, what are the three elements? First, we have to have a nonresident, obviously. That seems pretty simple. Like, hey, if they don’t live in Georgia, then they’re a nonresident. But what the courts have said is, if you’ve got a company or a business who has a registered agent in Georgia, even if they do the vast majority of their work or all of their work outside of the state, they’re not a nonresident.
So, let’s say we have a nonresident. Somebody who lives outside the state, no registered agent here in the state. Well, then we go to the second element, and that is that you have to personally serve the Georgia Secretary of State with the papers. You give them to the process server and they take them and serve them.
Then we have the third element and that is that you must take what you’ve served the Secretary of State and mail it via registered mail to the nonresident motorist. In addition, you must include in that package a certificate that says, hey, I’ve served you via the Nonresident Motorist Act so that they know that they have to answer the lawsuit. Once you’ve done that, then the nonresident motorist has to answer the lawsuit, just like if they had been personally served here in Georgia. It could be really helpful if your defendant is out of state or somewhere hard to reach.