How Much Does Small Claims Court Cost In Washington State

How much does small claims court cost in Washington state?

To initiate a lawsuit in Washington State’s small claims court, you’ll need to pay a filing fee to the court clerk when you file the suit.

The specific filing fee you’ll be required to pay depends on whether the county in which you’re filing the lawsuit supports a dispute resolution center.

In such cases, the filing fee will either amount to $35 or $50.

How Much Does Small Claims Court Cost In Washington State

Additionally, there may be some extra fees that you must pay to the sheriff or process server to ensure that the Notice of Small Claims is properly served on the defendant.

Alternatively, you have the option to serve notice on the defendant through registered or certified, return receipt mailing.

Should your case end in your favor, you have the right to recover your costs related to filing and service fees.

Small claims court in Washington State is accessible to a wide range of plaintiffs, including individuals, businesses, partnerships, and most corporations, though there are some exceptions.

For “natural persons,” which refers to individuals, the maximum claim amount is $10,000.

While for all other cases, the limit stands at $5,000.

You should generally file the claim in the district court of the county where the defendant(s) reside.

For specific exceptions and rules, consult RCW 3.66.040.

It’s important to highlight that you cannot sue the State of Washington in Small Claims Court.

Without the judge’s permission, attorneys and paralegals cannot participate with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims lawsuit.

How To Sue In small claims in Washington state

To get started, begin by reaching out to your local district court, and you can find their contact information in your local phone book or at www.courts.wa.gov.

Once you’ve made contact, obtain a Notice of Small Claim form from the clerk.

Sign the Notice in the clerk’s presence, unless instructed otherwise by the court.

The clerk will enter a hearing date, trial date, or response date on the Notice form.

It’s the plaintiff’s responsibility to accurately identify the defendant, provide a correct address, and if possible, supply a phone number.

Concerning the time limits for filing your case, they can span from one (1) to ten (10) years.

You can find information about the specific time limit that applies to your type of case in Chapter 4.16 of the RCW.

How Much Does Small Claims Court Cost In Washington State

Serving Process in Small Claims Court In Washington State

  • The clerk can provide forms and general information about the process, but remember they cannot offer legal advice.
  • Serving the claim form can be carried out through various means:
    • The Sheriff’s Office
    • A process server
    • Any adult (at least 18 years old) with no involvement in the case as a witness or party
    • Mailing copies to the defendant via registered or certified mail with a return receipt requested.
  • The Notice of Small Claim must reach the defendant at least ten (10) days before the initial hearing.
  • You must file a return of service or a mail return receipt bearing the defendant’s signature on or before the first hearing.
  • Importantly, you are not allowed to serve the claim personally.
  • For more comprehensive information, consult RCW Chapters 4.28 and 12.40, along with CRLJ 5.

How To Collect Money After Judgement

Once a judgment is issued, the court clerk records it in the civil docket and provides a certified copy to the winning party at no extra cost.

It’s crucial to note that having a money judgment in your favor doesn’t guarantee immediate payment, as the Small Claims Court doesn’t handle the collection of judgments.

In cases where the debtor doesn’t promptly pay, the court may order a payment plan.

If the losing party still doesn’t comply, the judgment will accrue additional amounts to cover enforcement costs.

If there’s no appeal and the judgment remains unpaid after 30 days or the period established in a mediation agreement or payment plan.

The prevailing party can pursue judgment enforcement through various means, such as garnishing the defendant’s wages or seizing their personal property.

Keep in mind that court clerks can’t provide legal advice.

You may consider seeking assistance from an attorney or a collection agency, with the potential for the debtor to cover their fees.

How To Appeal A Case In Small Claims Court Washington State

Both parties have the option to appeal a judgment if the judge rules against them.

There’s an exception: no appeal is allowed if the initial claim was under $250.

To appeal a judgment from a claim or counterclaim, the initial amount claimed must have exceeded $1,000.

In cases of losing a default judgment, the appeal can be pursued following district court rules for setting aside default judgments.

The appealing party must adhere to the procedures outlined in chapter 12.36 of the RCW.

  • Within 30 days of the judgment’s entry, the party seeking an appeal must complete the following steps:
    1. File a written Notice of Appeal with the district court.
    2. Serve a copy of the Notice to the other involved parties.
    3. Submit a $20 transcript fee to the district court.
    4. Deposit $230, as a superior court filing fee, in cash, money order, or cashier’s check payable to the Clerk of the Superior Court. Additionally, pay a $40 appeal preparation processing fee to the district court.
    5. Post a cash or surety bond worth twice the judgment and costs or twice the amount in dispute, whichever is higher, at the district court.

After transferring the appeal and bond to the superior court, the appellant can ask the superior court to halt the enforcement of the district court judgment until the appeal is decided.

Within 14 days of filing the Notice of Appeal, the district court clerk will forward the court record to the superior court clerk.

Subsequent proceedings will take place in the superior court.

 

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