How is a lawsuit started?
A lawsuit is started by serving a Summons and Complaint on a person or an agent for a legal entity.
A process server has been trying to serve papers on me. If I avoid being served can I avoid getting sued?
No. If you avoid service, the court may authorize service by a different method such as mail or publication in a newspaper. In that case, the lawsuit may go forward without you and you may lose the case without ever participating in it. It is better to accept the papers from the process server and consult with an attorney about how best to proceed.
I was served with a Summons and Complaint, what do I do?
Read the Summons for directions on what to do. In general, a Summons requires the person served to answer the allegations in the Complaint in writing and file it with the Clerk of Court in which the lawsuit is pending and serve a copy on the opposing party within 20 days of service.
Can I represent myself in a lawsuit?
Yes, but unless the case is one in Small Claims Court it is not advisable to represent yourself without at least first consulting a trial attorney.
What is Small Claims Court?
In Washington Small Claims Court is a division of the District Courts that handle claims filed in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000.00. Neither party is allowed to be represented by an attorney in a Small Claims Court.
What is the difference between District Court and Superior Court in Washington?
For civil litigation purposes, a District Court may only hear claims involving matters up to $75,000.00 in controversy. A Superior Court may handle a claim in any amount over $300.00. There are different judges, rules of procedure, and the number of persons on a jury. There are some lawsuits that can only be filed in Superior Court such as those involving title to real estate probate and family law.
What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?
Arbitration and mediation are alternatives to a trial before a judge or jury. In arbitration, a neutral third person decides the controversy between the parties. In mediation, a mediator assists the parties in negotiating a settlement of their dispute but has no authority to decide the dispute.
How long does it take to “have your day in court” with a trial?
In Washington, when a case is tried varies with the court and county in which the lawsuit is pending. In general, most cases will be assigned a trial date between eight and twelve months from the date the case is filed. However, for a variety of reasons such as the availability of a judge, a backup of cases that need to be tried, and the fact that criminal cases take priority over civil cases, it is not unusual for a case to be rescheduled to a date beyond the original trial date.
What is a Judgment?
A judgment is the final written determination of the outcome of a civil lawsuit. In Washington, a judgment of a trial court may be appealed within 30 days to the Court of Appeals. A judgment involving an award of money becomes a lien on all property owned by the judgment debtor in the county where the suit took place and may be enforced by garnishment of wages or bank accounts, seizure of personal property, or foreclosure on real estate.