Service of Process on an Out-of-State Resident for Motor Vehicle Accidents

Due to the nature of my cross-border injury practice, one of many frequent questions I get from colleagues is how to perfect service on an out-of-state defendant. When it comes to a Washington State motor vehicle accident lawsuit, there are number of options, none of which involve the expensive and time-consuming Hague Convention.Due to the nature of my cross-border injury practice, one of many frequent questions I get from colleagues is how to perfect service on an out-of-state defendant. When it comes to a Washington State motor vehicle accident lawsuit, there are number of options, none of which involve the expensive and time-consuming Hague Convention.

The first option is personal service on the defendant, subject to the provisions of RCW 4.28.180. The relevant portion of the statute reads that "personal service of a summons or other process may be made upon any party outside of the state". The only difference between service in-state and out-of-state, is the time required by the defendant in which to respond to the Complaint. If personal service is perfected, it would appear that no other action need be taken except to file the Affidavit of Service on an out-of-state defendant, as per the provisions of RCW 4.28.185(4). Note that per RCW 4.28.185 the commission of tortious act gives rise to jurisdiction over the defendant by a Washington Court.

If a defendant cannot be located outside of the state of Washington, counsel should rely on RCW 46.64.040. The statute is specific to a non-residents use of a highway, appointing the Washington secretary of state as attorney-in-fact to act as an agent for service of process. It is important to read the statute very carefully. Some of the more important aspects of the statute are that the Secretary of State will only act as an agent "after a due and diligent search" has been conducted. For this reason, when I cannot locate the out-of-state resident, I instruct my process server to conduct a thorough skip trace an attempt service on every potential address. Usually, I try and attempt the five services per address.

All of the aforementioned is not to suggest that the Hague Convention cannot be used for service of process on an out-of-state defendant. However, it points out that Hague C onvention service is certainly not necessary.

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