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How do I file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington?

To file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington, you have to draft a summons and complaint and file both documents in the proper Court.  

1. What is the summons?

The summons provides written notice to the Court and the opposing party (i.e. defendant) that you have filed a personal injury lawsuit in Washington. 

The summons basically tells the defendant that he or she has to formally respond to your lawsuit within 20 days or you (i.e. the plaintiff) can go to court and seek a default judgment.

The summons does not include any specific information about your case, other than your name, the defendant's name, and the name of the Court.  

The law requires that a summons have standard, boilerplate information, so feel free to use my template as a guide. 

2. What is the complaint?

The complaint actually describes your lawsuit. You tell the Court what happened—when and where the injury took place, the injuries you suffered, and your interactions with the defendant.

You also describe your damages, such as lost wages, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and unpaid medical bills.  

3. How do you file a summons and complaint in Court?

After drafting your summons and complaint, you must file both documents with the Court.  You don't have to file them together, but should always should file them together. 

You may be able to file your lawsuit online. In King County Superior Court, for example, you can easily file online using the Court's E-Filing service. You simply register for an account, answer some basic information, and you're done. There's no additional filing fee. Attorneys are required to e-file documents, but it's optional for pro se (i.e. un-represented parties). You can also file online in Pierce County.

In many counties, however, e-filing is not an option. Snohomish County and Whatcom County require that you file by mail. San Juan County permits you to file by fax, but using that option requires an additional fee.

4. How much does it cost to file a personal injury lawsuit?

To file a lawsuit in superior court in Washington, you have to pay a $220 filing fee. To file in district court, it only costs $83.

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