It's going to happen to most people at least once in a lifetime. Someone owes you money and refuses to pay it back. Be it for a deposit, loan, vehicle accident or wages earned and not paid. Taking someone to "Small Claims Court" can be a huge cost in time and effort, and when you have to navigate the "How", it can become unmanageable.
In this section we will discuss the procedures that "Pierce County" has in place to first "File a Small Claim" and then we will cover the step-by-step process to get back what is justly yours.
Proceed to the 2nd Floor. Here you will pay your $29.00 filing fee and you will receive two copies of your Court Documents. One is for you and the other needs to be served upon your defendant.
Hire a Process Server:
Anyone that is over the age of 18 and a U.S. resident can deliver your defendant's copy of the Small Claim to them but here is where you need to be careful. Having family or a friend do this for you is allowed and as long as your defendant shows up for the court hearing you will be fine. But if your defendant does not show up for the court hearing you now place the Court and Judge in a dilemma as to whether or not the defendant even knows about the court case. This is one of the advantages of hiring a competent "Process Server". Someone that is licensed by the State of Washington and who's testimony is trusted by the court. That dilemma is removed and if your evidence of "Money Owed" is proven you can get a judgment in your favor by default. Also if you win your case the fee you paid the Process Server is awarded in addition to your judgment. For more information click on "Why do I need a Process Server?"
What is Mediation?
On your day in court you aren't going to be going before a judge, you will be seen by a "Mediator". If your defendant shows up you will sit down with the mediator and try and come to some sort of agreement. Don't feel like you have to settle for less than full compensation. If an agreement cannot be reached then the case will be set for a "Trial date" in the future. On that day it will be just like "Judge-Judy" only maybe without all the drama she loves to bring.
What's left to do to Prepare for your Case:
Chances are you are going to get a court date for your case sometimes 2-3 months away. Use this time to prepare yourself. Write an outline with dates and times of what took place and how your defendant owes you money. Pretend you are in front of "Judge-Judy" and explain you case from beginning to end. This will help you to organize your thoughts about the case and help you reference evidence such as receipts, photo's and witness statements. This will also be handy because if your defendant does not show for the court date the court will want you to produce something like this. Also they will want copies all your evidence and your "Proof of Service" from the Process Server. They will use this to build a packet that will go before a judge at a later date. To try and hand-jam something for that packet at the last minute is not going to help you win your case. You will undoubtedly see some poor person that didn't read this guide and they will be panicking trying to scribal something together for their case.
If your defendant does show up for mediation this will help you keep your train of thought about the incident and help you to stay focused with dates, times and photo's. And if an agreement cannot be reached in mediation you have a huge head-start on getting ready to present your case to a Judge in open court.
Tacoma - Lakewood - University Place / Pierce County: (253)565-6670
Seattle Metro / King County: (206)248-9337
Olympia - Lacey / Thurston County: (253)363-2993
Fax: (Toll Free) 1-(866)702-6392