Information about Small Claims
The information contained here is intended to address the most frequently asked questions. It is not comprehensive and should not be construed as legal advice. Those in need of legal advice should consult an attorney.
To start a small claims, download an electronic packet from the right panel by selecting the proper location.
Who Can Sue and Be Sued? Any individual, business, partnership, or corporation (with a couple of exceptions) may bring a small claims suit for recovery of money only for an amount up to $5,000. A claim can be filed in any King County District Court location, however, small claims cases are only heard in Burien (starting September 2013),Issaquah, Seattle, Shoreline and Vashon. You may select the courthouse location you wish your claim to be heard in as long as other jurisdictional requirements apply. In the case of a traffic accident, or an unlawfully issued check, small claims cases will be filed in the county where the accident occurred or check was issued. Other jurisdictional questions will be answered by a review of RCW 3.66.040 (external site). Questions regarding the statute of limitations in small claims actions can be answered by a review of RCW 4.16 (external site). The State of Washington may not be sued in Small Claims Court. The filing fee for Small Claims is $35 effective July 1, 2009. A portion of your filing fee goes to the King County Dispute Resolution Center. The Center provides free mediation services prior to your court date, or the same day as court. For more information contact the Center at 206.443.9603 or visit their web site (external site).
The Parties Present Their Cases Themselves: Attorneys and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims suit unless the judge grants permission. You may consult an attorney before you go to court or after.
When will the case be heard? Cases are generally heard between 40 and 90 days from the date of filing. You will be given a date and time to appear for your trial. There will be other small claims trials scheduled for the same date and time as yours.
Typical Cases: Typical cases involve, but are not limited to, auto accidents, property damage, landlord/tenant disputes and collection of personal debts.
The Trial: Your case will be heard by a District Court Judge, Commissioner or judge pro-tem. A commissioner has all the responsibilities and powers of a judge. A judge pro-tem is an attorney who is hired to fill in for judicial vacations and sick leave. A judge pro-tem also has all the responsibilities and powers of a judge. Each party will have a chance to tell their side of the story. It is important to bring evidence such as photos, witnesses, bills, receipts, contracts or anything else that will prove your case. The judge may decide the case at the time of the hearing or mail it to the parties later.
If You Want to Appeal a Decision: The party who files a claim or counterclaim cannot appeal unless the amount claimed exceeds $1,000. No party may appeal a judgment where the amount claimed is less than $250. An appeal must be filed within 30 days of the entry of the judgment and all required fees must be paid at that time.