Small Claims Forms & Information

Information and forms for filing small claims up to $10,000.

 How to file a small claims

Important Notice – District Court personnel are not permitted to fill out any forms. District Court personnel are also not authorized to give legal advice. District Court strongly encourages an unrepresented party to seek legal advice from an attorney. If you need help, please review the "Guide To Website Forms" on the District Court website.

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.

Important Notice Regarding Litigant Confidential Information – District Court needs information about every party involved in a case so the court can accurately identify the parties and be able to contact them.

If you have not already done so, please complete a Litigant Confidential Information Form and provide it to the court. You should also use the form to update information previously provided to the court.

First, Start With the Small Claims Brochure & the Small Claims Checklist.

Next Review "Guide To Representing Yourself" – Click on the link "Guide To Representing Yourself" so that you confidently represent yourself in a civil case.

Then Review "Guide To Website Forms" – The District Court website contains many forms. Before using these forms, please click on the link "Guide To Website Forms" to assist you with the proper use of these forms.

Small Claims Forms
*Forms required to open a case

*Small Claims Notice Of Claim

*Litigant Confidential Information Form

Small Claims Declaration Of Non-Military Service

Small Claims Declaration Of Service

Small Claims Declaration Of Witness

Small Claims Motion To Continue

Small Claims Motion To Amend Name Of Party In Caption

Small Claims Counterclaim

Small Claims Motion

Small Claims Satisfaction Of Judgment

Small Claims Motion For Entry Of Satisfaction Of Judgment

Small Claims Motion To Dismiss-Plaintiff's Motion

Small Claims Motion To Enforce Settlement Agreement

Small Claims Note For Motion Docket

Small Claims Mediation Declaration

Motion For Waiver Of Fees

Who May Bring A Small Claims Action?
Any individual, business, association, partnership or corporation (with a few exceptions) may bring a small claims case but only to recover money. RCW 12.40.010.

The State of Washington may not be sued in a small claims case. Attorneys and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims case unless the judge grants permission.

Is There A Maximum Amount I Can Claim? Yes. The legislature created a subset of district court civil cases for "small" claims which have a jurisdictional limitation called an amount-in-controversy. A "small" claim is defined by the legislature as an amount sought by a plaintiff or defendant (in a counterclaim) which may not exceed $10,000 in cases brought by a "natural person" (meaning a human being) and may not exceed $5,000 in all other cases. RCW 12.40.010.

Can I File Several Separate Claims Against The Same Party? A small claims court does not have jurisdiction if a plaintiff or a defendant files a claim or counterclaim in an amount which expressly exceeds the small claims amount-in-controversy limitation. A party may not manipulate the small claims amount-in-controversy limitation by filing against the same party several separate claims each under the amount-in-controversy limitation.

The judge will consider the total amount sought against one party in all of the claims filed by the other party to determine whether the court has small claims jurisdiction. All claims or counterclaims which when added together exceed the jurisdictional limitation will be dismissed. Filing fees will not be returned.

What Are My Options If I Am Owed More Than $10,000/$5,000? Small claims actions are available to unrepresented parties for speedy, cheap, and conclusive justice. Unlike regular civil cases, small claims cases are deliberately informal with only a few applicable rules. If the party you are suing owes you more than the small claims amount-in-controversy limitations, you have three options –

• (1)Seek legal advice from an attorney; and/or
• (2)File a lawsuit for the full amount in a court of competent civil jurisdiction and follow all laws and civil court rules applicable to that court; and/or
• (3)File your case in a small claims court but limit the total amount you will ever be able to collect from the opposing party to the small claims amount-in-controversy limitations discussed above.

Can I File A Small Claims Case To Get My Property Returned? No. The judge can only order a judgment for money in a small claims case.
If a person has your property and you want a judge to order your property returned to you, a replevin action (chapters 12.28 and 7.64 RCW) filed in a court of competent civil jurisdiction may be an option. If you are/were a tenant and the landlord is withholding your property, you may also have an option to proceed under RCW 59.18.230.
You are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice from an attorney because these types of civil actions can be complicated.

How Long Do I Have To File My Case?
Time limits range from one (1) to ten (10) years. See chapter 4.16 RCW to determine which time limit applies to your type of case.

Where Should A Small Claims Action Be Filed? In general, a small claims action must be filed in the district court of the county in which the defendant(s) resides. Exceptions and specific rules can be found at RCW 3.66.040.

What Types Of Cases May Be Brought In A Small Claims Action? Within the jurisdictional amounts discussed above, a district court has jurisdiction pursuant to RCW 3.66.020 to handle a variety of types of cases involving the recovery of money, including for example –

• Landlords (damage, rent non-payment) and tenants (security/damage deposit)
• Vehicles (repair, collision damage, purchase and sale)
• Services (paid but not performed, rendered but not paid)
• Loans
• Purchased item (does not work)
• Damage to property
• Personal injury (medical bills and other expenses, but not pain and suffering)
• Breach of contract
• Wages

What Types Of Cases Cannot Be Brought? District courts lack jurisdiction pursuant to RCW 3.66.030 to handle any case involving –

• Title to real property
• Actions for foreclosure of a mortgage or enforcement of a lien on real estate
• Defamation (libel, slander)
• False imprisonment
• Malicious prosecution
• Criminal conversion
• Seduction
• Actions against an executor or administrator

Do I Have To Pay Any Money For A Small Claims Matter? Yes. Washington law requires a small claims petitioner to pay a $50.00 filing fee when a Small Claims Notice Of Claim is filed. A defendant who wants to file a Small Claims Counterclaim must also pay $50.00 when the counterclaim is filed. RCW 12.40.020; 7.75.035(1).
In addition, you may have some fees payable to the sheriff or process server to have a Small Claims Notice Of Claim or a Small Claims Counterclaim served on the opposing parties. As an alternative, the notice or counterclaim may be served by certified or registered mail, return receipt mailing. If you win your case, you are entitled to recover costs including any filing fees and service costs.

How Do I Pay The Fees? District Court offers several methods of payment. See Payment Of Tickets, Fines, And Court Fees on the District Court website for payment options.

What If I Cannot Afford To Pay The $50.00 Filing Fee? The First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances." Access to the judicial branch of government is included within this First Amendment right. Kitsap County District Court is committed to the principle that everyone must have access to courts regardless of a person's financial situation.

If you want to file a case in a Washington court but cannot afford to pay the fees, you may ask the court to waive the fees. The judge shall waive all fees and surcharges if the judge finds you are indigent and payment of a fee or surcharge "is a condition precedent to a litigant's ability to secure access to judicial relief from a judicial officer in the applicable trial court." General Rule 34(a).

Filing Fees Will Be Waived If (1) You Ask And (2) You Qualify – There is no cost for you to ask the judge to waive filing fees and surcharges. If you are not sure whether you qualify, please ask as soon as possible by filing a Motion For Waiver Of Fees. District Court grants hundreds of fee waiver requests every year so that everyone can have access to justice.

If any one of the following four categories applies to you, you are indigent and qualify to have all the filing fees and surcharges waived so you can file your case with District Court –

• Government Assistance – An individual is currently receiving assistance under any needs-based, means-tested assistance program such as –

(1) Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); or
(2) State-provided general assistance for unemployable individuals (GA-U or GA-X); or
(3) Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI); or
(4) Federal poverty-related veteran's benefits; or
(5) Food Stamp Program (FSP); or
(6) Welfare; or
(7) Medicaid; or
(8) Pregnant Women Assistance Benefits; or
(9) Refugee Settlement Benefits; or
(10) Aged, Blind or Disabled Assistance Program; or

• Below Poverty Guideline – An individual's household income is at or below 125% of the federal poverty guideline; or

• Without Financial Ability – An individual's household income is above 125% of the federal poverty guideline and recurring basic living expenses (as defined in RCW 10.101.010(4)(d)) render the individual without the financial ability to pay the fees or surcharges; or

• Other – Other compelling circumstances exist that demonstrate an individual's inability to pay fees and/or surcharges.

A Motion For Waiver Of Fees form is available on this page and at several locations on the District Court website. The federal poverty guideline is also available on the website for you to review.