Responding to a civil lawsuit

General information

Civil Court Rules CR 8 and CR 12 for Superior Court and for District Court talk about defenses, including affirmative defenses. Affirmative defenses need to be proven by the person who is claiming them. A successful affirmative defense can mean that the defendant has no liability, even if all of the allegations in the complaint are true. The Court Rules also specify the time period for serving an answer (responding) to the other party.

Forms and instructions

Washington LawHelp has guides with instructions to help you respond to a debt collection lawsuit. The material is general enough to use in many other types of cases:

If you are served with a lawsuit, Washington LawHelp has a Notice of Appearance that you can use to say that you want to defend yourself and get notice of anything else that happens in the case:

  • File a Notice of Appearance - printable packet with instructions and a form that you can fill out by hand or an online interview to help you fill out the form

More information about responding to default is on the default judgment page. More information and forms about answering are available at the Law Library.

Self-help kit from the law library

self-help form kits

The law library sells a Respond to a Civil Lawsuit in Superior Court kit with forms and instructions to respond to a civil lawsuit in Superior Court filed against a person. It includes affirmative defenses and counterclaims, but does not include cross claims. Kits can be purchased at the library or online and mailed out.


Counterclaims can be included when responding to a lawsuit. These are claims by the defendant against the plaintiff. In addition to responding to the plaintiff's lawsuit, the defendant may also raise these counterclaims. This is basically suing the plaintiff, and will require a filing fee.

Civil Court Rule CR 13 for Superior Court and for District Court discuss counterclaims. Washington LawHelp's If Someone Sues You in Small Claims Court has a section about counterclaims.

Free eBook about representing yourself in court

Represent Yourself in Court book cover

How to find the eBook about representing yourself in court

Pages 74-80 pertain to the defendant's response to a lawsuit

Log in to Nolo

Additional resources

Washington LawHelp has: