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What Is a Summons?

Colburn Law

There are several important processes involved when filing a civil lawsuit. One of the most important is the summons, or a form that lets a defendant know that there is litigation pending against him or her. 

To appropriately file a summons, you and your attorney will need to comply with a series of important requirements. Here is what you need to know about filing a summons and what happens if a defendant fails to respond. 

Understanding Summons in Civil Litigation

In a civil lawsuit, a summons is an official court notice that states that a plaintiff has filed an action against a defendant. This form informs the defendant that he or she is going to face a lawsuit and must file a response with the court within an appropriate time frame. 

If the defendant does not respond to the summons on time, the court may enter a default judgment against him or her. As a result, the defendant will lose the case and will be required to provide the settlement requested by the plaintiff.

What Does a Summons Contain?

According to Washington civil court rules, a summons must contain the following information:

  • The title of the cause
  • The names of the plaintiff and the defendant
  • The court in which the action is being filed
  • The name of the county where the trial will take place
  • Directions requiring the defendant to serve a copy of his or her defense within a certain time frame
  • A statement notifying the defendant that a default judgment will be rendered against the defendant if he or she does not respond in time

What Is a Summons?

How Do You Serve a Summons?

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 4.28.080 provides a broad overview of the laws on how to serve a summons to a potential defendant. There are different rules for serving different types of entities and individuals, such as government agencies, insurance providers, and private corporations. 

If you are filing a lawsuit against a private individual, you can deliver a copy of the summons in one of the following ways:

  • You can provide a copy of the summons to the defendant personally.
  • You can leave a copy of the summons at the defendant’s home with a person of suitable age and discretion.
  • If you cannot serve the defendant in person with reasonable diligence, you can leave a copy at his or her usual mailing address with a person of suitable age or discretion who is a resident, proprietor, or agent of the defendant, and then mail a copy by first-class mail to the defendant at his or her usual mailing address.

What Happens After You Serve a Summons?

When you send a summons to a defendant, you and your lawyer must sign and date it. The defendant will then be required to defend the action and submit his or her defense to the court.

Typically, the defendant has 20 days after being served, excluding the day of service. If the defendant does not respond in time, the court will likely enter a default judgment in your favor.

Speak to an Attorney About Your Civil Case

If you plan on pursuing civil litigation against someone in Washington, you need an attorney who can help you comply with court requirements and guide you through the process. As soon as possible, contact a Seattle personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options and plan your next steps.