Washington Personal Injury Law
Statutes of Limitations: The amount of time you have to sue whoever caused your injury or damage.
- Personal Injury – 3 years from the discovery of the injury
- Damage to Personal Property – 3 years
- Medical malpractice – 3 years from the discovery of the injury. In no event more than 8 years after the last act that caused the injury.
- Legal malpractice – 3 years
- Other professional malpractice – 3 years
Where to Sue:
- Personal injury claims under $5,000–Washington Small Claims Court
- Personal injury claims between $5,000-$50,000-Washington District Court
- Personal injury claims over $50,000-Washington Superior Court
How to Sue:
Small Claims Court:
- Forms: Notice of Small Claim form. You are required to sign the Notice of Small Claim form in front of the clerk of the Small Claims Court.
- Where to file: Where the defendant lives.
- How to notify the defendant (service): The paperwork should be handed to the defendant by a sheriff, deputy, or disinterested adult. If the defendant is served by mail, one copy of the paperwork should be sent to the defendant by first class mail. A second copy should be mailed by registered or certified mail.
- Proving the defendant was notified: A return of service or mail return receipt signed by the defendant and filed with the clerk of the Small Claims Court is sufficient for proof of service of process. The return must be filed before the hearing.
- Attorneys: Attorneys are not allowed unless the court grants permission.
- Appealing a small claim: The plaintiff or the defendant can appeal to the Washington Superior Court within 30 days if the claim is over $250.
Washington District Court: In filing your case, consult with a Washington personal injury attorney. Personal injury suits are complicated. Errors in filing your case may result in court fines, the loss of your claim, or the dismissal of your claim.
Forms: Complaint and Summons. Visit your local Washington State District Court to complete and file this paperwork.
How to File: File the Summons and Complaint with the Washington State District Court Clerk in the district where you intend to sue, and pay the filing fee. The clerk will stamp the forms prior to service on the defendant.
How to Notify the Defendant: Either serve the defendant by sending one copy of the Summons and Complaint by first class mail and a second copy registered or certified mail, or request that a sheriff or disinterested person over the age of 18 personally hand the paperwork to the defendant. File a copy of the return of service with the Washington State District Court clerk.
What to Do if You Are Being Sued:
- Time to respond to a Summons in Washington: 20 days.
- An attorney should be consulted.
- If the plaintiff’s injury occurred at your residence or business, contact your insurance company to notify them of the claim, if you are covered you will be provided with an attorney.
What to Do if a Judgment Was Entered Against You:
If you do not reply to service of process in Washington within 20 days, the court will declare that you are in default and will enter a default judgment. As a result, the plaintiff will be awarded the amount he pled for in his complaint.
- Time to Set Aside a Judgment in Washington:
- Washington State courts may set aside a judgment based on a clerical error at their own initiative or on motion of a party at any time.
- Washington State courts can vacate a judgment for surprise, excusable neglect or irregularity, inadvertence, newly discovered evidence or mistake not more than one year after the initial judgment
- If the court has entered a default judgment, contact an attorney.
Ways to Collect Your Judgment:
- Winning your Washington State personal injury law suit is only the first step. After you win, you still must collect the judgment from the defendant. Defendants will sometimes avoid paying judgments. To collect your judgment, you should file a writ of execution, garnish the debtor’s wages, or have a lien placed on the debtor’s property.
- A Washington State debt collection attorney can help you collect your judgment.