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What happens after Defendant is Served?

State of Washington, Small Claims Court

First, if you utilize to process your case, you will receive an email from our office shortly after the Defendant has been served. If for some reason you don’t get the email, check your online account for the details.

After the Defendant has been served with the Notice of Small Claims, he/she is not required to file an Answer with the court.

Naturally, the Defendant has the right to call the Plaintiff and settle the case before the day of the hearing. Further, the Defendant has the right to file a Continuance (ask the court for a hearing date farther out). If this happens, you will be notified by the court before your hearing. The Plaintiff also has the right to file a Continuance. Regardless of which party files the Continuance, it must be filed a minimum number of days before the hearing. Most states require the Continuance filing at least ten (10) days before the hearing.

After being served, the Defendant also has the right to file a Counter-Claim. This claim must be filed at court and served upon you, the Plaintiff, before the hearing date. The Judge will hear both parties’ claims on the day of the hearing.

Washington Small Claims Courts, similar to most states, offer Mediation or Dispute Resolution Services before and/or on the day of your hearing. Naturally, both parties must agree to mediate their case. These services in Washington are purely optional. If an agreement is not made through Mediation, the parties simply proceed back to the courtroom where the Judge will hear their case.

If the Defendant does not do any of the above, he/she is required to appear at the hearing. If the Plaintiff appears and the Defendant does not, the Plaintiff will most likely be awarded a Default Judgment. You will still be required to show the Judge evidence of your claim. If you are unable to substantiate your claim, you are not guaranteed this Default Judgment. The Judge can order a new trial if he/she believes that more evidence is required.

Important note for Plaintiff’s. If you do not appear at your hearing (regardless if the Defendant appears), the case will be dismissed. However, almost all states dismiss the case Without Prejudice. This means that you are able to file the case again at a later time.

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this site is not legal advice, but general information on legal issues commonly encountered in the California Small Claims process.'s Legal Document Service is not a law firm and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. cannot provide legal advice and can only provide self-help services at your specific direction.
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