Filing a Lawsuit

Before you decide to file a lawsuit against your contractor, you should provide them with a written list of your complaints and needs, including a deadline for them to respond to you. Additionally, you may want to consider a mediation process, which is usually less expensive than court action and often brings a faster resolution.

To file suit against a contractor, file a summons & complaint

If necessary, you can file suit — with or without an attorney — by doing the following:

  1. Obtain a Summons & Complaint form. L&I does not supply these forms. They may be found on some, but not all, court Web sites, clerks’ offices, or for purchase in office supply or stationery stores. Call ahead to make sure they are available. The forms can be hard to find. Also, if you get your forms from an office supply store, call the Superior Court to make sure the store's form covers the requirements of your suit.
  2. Complete the form as directed. You can include any legal fees, court costs or interest in the summons and complaint.
    • To collect from the contractor’s bond, you need to name the bond company as a defendant, and include the contractor’s bond number on the form. Be sure to include: the contractor’s business name, all owners, the business address and contractor registration number. If an assignment of savings is on file instead of a bond, you need to list the bank name and account number in your complaint.
    • Get all the necessary information on the contractor, their bond and bond company, through our Verify a Contractor tool.
  3. File your form with the Superior Court in the county where the work was done. The court will charge a filing fee of approximately $200.00 and will stamp the form with a cause number.
  4. Have your summons and complaint served — a legal must.
    1. To serve the contractor's bond: You must send to L&I three copies of your Summons & Complaint form. Include a $55.00 check made out to the Department of Labor & Industries—the processing fee. Send by certified or registered mail to: Dept. of Labor & Industries - Contractor Registration, PO Box 44450, Olympia, WA 98504-4450.
    2. L&I will serve the contractor and the bond company with the lawsuit.
    3. To serve the contractor and/or his business you will need additional copies of the summons and complaint served through a third party. See the phone book for process servers.
    4. L&I will send copies of the transmittal letters back to you as proof of the contractor having been served. The suit is only for the amount available in the surety bond.
    5. Keep a copy of the Summons & Complaint for your records.
    6. When your case concludes, if you win, you must send a copy of the Judgment and Order to Labor & Industries within 10 days of the judgment or settlement. If the contractor wins, they are responsible for sending us a copy of the settlement or judgment within 10 days.

Once these steps are complete, L&I will no longer be involved with the case, other than as a record keeper.

Additional Resources

Check-out our What to Do if You Want to File Suit Against Your Construction Contractor publication.