Mediation, arbitration and collaborative law don’t always get you the resolution you desire; in some cases, your only recourse is to sue the other party. The process of suing someone in Washington can be complicated and the consequences far-reaching, so it’s crucial that you understand all your options and what to expect before moving forward.
Civil lawsuits in Washington
Civil lawsuits differ from criminal ones in that they’re filed by individuals or businesses and not the government. They aim to settle a dispute between two parties through financial compensation or court order rather than impose criminal penalties. There are many different types of civil lawsuits that can be filed in Washington, but most business disputes fall into one of three categories: breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty or fraud.
How it happens
The first step in business litigation is filing a complaint with the court. The complaint is a document that outlines your legal claim against the other party. It must be served on the defendant along with a summons, or an order from the court telling them to appear and defend themselves against your allegations.
The defendant then has 20 days to file a response to the complaint. If they don’t, you may be able to request a default judgment from the court, which would allow you to win your case without having to go to trial.
If the defendant does file a response, the next step is discovery, which is the process of collecting evidence and information that will be used at trial. It can involve depositions, or questioning witnesses under oath; requests for documents; and interrogatories, or written questions that must be answered under oath.
Both sides will then have an opportunity to file motions with the court. These are legal arguments asking the judge to rule in their favor on specific issues in the legal action. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a jury or a judge could hear the case.
Businesses rely heavily on contract terms, reputation and goodwill to be successful. If another business or individual damages any of those things, one of the ways to seek remedy for the harm done is a lawsuit. But, other options worth considering exist too.