"What do i do after being served a 20 day summons?" If you are not planning to represent yourself, you start interviewing attorneys to hire one. Preferably, you should hire your attorney about a week before 20 days are over so that your attorney have a few days to at least file a notice of appearance so that you do not lose by default.
If you cannot file an answer or a notice of appearance on time, you likely can still vacate the default judgment if you act promptly. However, that would be more work and more attorney's fees if you hire an attorney.
If you were served today, the 20-day period would begin tomorrow.
So, start calling attorneys' offices to set up appointments or start learning the laws and procedures to defend yourself.
1. If you have liability insurance, notify your insurance company ASAP. Depending on the nature of the allegations, and depending on the specific language of your insurance policy, your policy might require your insurance company to hire a lawyer to defend you at its own expense. Further, if you have liability insurance, and if you fail to notify your insurance company about the lawsuit in a timely manner, your insurance company might deny coverage.
2. If you don't have liability insurance, and if you can afford an attorney, it would behoove you to interview and retain an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney would likely take immediate measures to ensure that you don't lose the case by default -- such as filing a "notice of appearance," answering the complaint if appropriate, etc. The timeline to take such action is short -- and far too short for most people to teach themselves the law. So, if you can afford an attorney, it would likely behoove you to find and retain one.
3. If you don't have liability insurance and can't afford to pay an attorney, there are legal clinics through which you might be able to find an attorney who'll help you free of charge. You should be able to find such clinics through the Washington State Bar Association's website (WSBA.org) or through your county's bar association. Again, you'd want to jump on that ASAP.
4. If the options above aren't viable for you, whatever you do, don't ignore the complaint. If you ignore the complaint or fail to respond as the law requires, you can lose the case by default -- meaning that the plaintiff can get whatever relief that he/she is requesting simply because you didn't respond. If you're stuck representing yourself, the court's rules are almost certainly available online, and they'd include rules that specify what you'd need to do immediately to preserve your rights. (Look into how to file a notice of appearance....)
Hope that helps, and best of luck.
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