New Statute Provides Alternative Means for Service of Process in Certain Motor Vehicle Collision Cases

The D.C. Council recently enacted a statute providing an alternative means for service of process in certain motor vehicle collision cases. The statute applies where the defendant is “a resident and who was the owner or operator of a motor vehicle at the time such vehicle was involved in a collision on any public highway of the District.” D.C. Code § 50-1301.07a.

The statute provides that when ordinary means of service are not successful, “the court may order any other means of service that it considers appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably calculated to give actual notice.” Id. Acceptable means of service may include service on “the liability carrier to the defendant, the attorney the liability carrier retained, or the claims adjuster assigned to the claim.” Id.

In addition to serving process by whatever means the court may order, notice of service must also “be sent by certified mail without return receipt requested . . . to the defendant at the defendant’s last known address.” Id.

Service made in accordance with the statute is deemed “of the same legal force and validity as if served upon the defendant personally in the District.” Id.

The statute defines “resident” to include “any person who is a resident of the District at the time of the collision or who was not a resident of the District at the time of the collision but subsequently became a resident of the District and is a resident of the District at the time process is sought to be served on the person as a result of such collision.” Id.

The statute was enacted as Title XIII of the Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Amendment Act of 2020 (A23-0568), and became effective on April 27, 2021 (L23-0274).

Additional details about the statute are provided in its text and legislative history.