A registered agent is helpful in understanding if you are suing a business entity. Many small claim forms ask for a registered agent, so it is essential to know how to find one when filing a small claim.
What Is a Registered Agent?
A corporation's registered agent is the person nominated to receive service of process on the corporation. In other words, if you want to sue that corporation, you find the registered agent, also known as the agent for service of process, and you have a guaranteed correct way of making services. The agent may be an officer of the company but is not required to be. However, the agent is usually located in the state where the business was formed.
Do I need the Registered Agent to serve?
Serving the registered agent is essential because you have to do it again if you serve the process incorrectly. Since the registered agent receives process, you can't be mistaken in serving the agent.
You probably hired someone to serve process and had to pay a fee for service as well. If done incorrectly, you lose time and money.
What's the Guarantee in Serving the Agent?
When a business entity is formed, its founding documents require naming an agent for the service of process. Generally, a multi-state business will have a registered agent in each state where it does business. Commercial agent services are easy to locate because they maintain a public office in each state where they serve as an agent.
Because the sole reason for the agent's appointment is to receive service, and the corporation itself appointed the agent, circumstances where the agent's service would not be proper are rare. Thus, service is virtually guaranteed.
Smaller companies may use an officer or attorney as their agent to save fees. In those cases, you'll serve the agent in the corporate office.
Can I serve the owner or CEO?
That sounds like a good idea, but it isn't. First, CEOs are often out of the office. And even if the CEO is in, office staff aren't usually eager to let process servers meet them. Plus, if the CEO is in one state because they conduct business there, but their headquarters is in another, and they're incorporated in a third, it may be challenging to figure out where to serve the company. In other words, it may well be worth that agent's fee to know that wherever the law says you should do service, you are there because your agent is there.
How do I find a business' registered agent?
Generally, the Secretary of State's office will have the records about corporations filed in that state. That office or a similar group can provide you with the agent for service for your lawsuit. Details matter here; you will need the exact legal name of the business to ensure you are suing the correct party.
How to sue using a business registered agent?
If you're filing a lawsuit against an entity, you'll need to know the name and address of the agent. If so, go to your secretary of state's office or website and do a name search or agent search for the company whose agent you need. Once you find it - and remember, accuracy is crucial - you will likely find the agent's name.
Before filing, make sure to review your contract with the company. Often, a corporate contract will specify where and how you have to serve process. It will also tell you where you have to file your suit and which state's law will apply. It may even specify arbitration instead of court at all. Try to ensure that the address is the same address that you find everywhere else and that the same person is always listed as the agent.
It can be costly if you sue a company and use a lawyer. Lawyers bill by the hour and cost can accumulate quickly.
Or, even if you're suing on your own in small claims court, it may be worthwhile to use an online service. They can search all the states, help you find a registered agent, and even help you file your suit. Dispute has scaleable packages with services based on your needs and budget.
At Dispute, our app makes the small claims filing process easy and affordable. Let the app manage all of the paperwork, court dates, and filing. All you have to do is check your user dashboard for updates on your case. Our tools make it easy to manage the details for any state and county. All you need to do is put together evidence and show up for your day in court.
State by State
Click your state to see specific instructions on finding the registered agent in that state:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia