Court Rule 3 deals with commencement of a civil action. (Personal injury cases are "civil actions.") The text of the Rule reads:
(a) Methods. Except as provided in rule 4.1, a civil action is commenced by service of a copy of a summons together with a copy of a complaint, as provided in rule 4 or by filing a complaint. Upon written demand by any other party, the plaintiff instituting the action shall pay the filing fee and file the summons and complaint within 14 days after service of the demand or the service shall be void. An action shall not be deemed commenced for the purpose of tolling any statute of limitations except as provided in RCW 4.16.170.
(b) Tolling Statute. (Reserved. See RCW 4.16.170.)
(c) Obtaining Jurisdiction. (Reserved. See RCW 4.28.020.)
(d) Lis Pendens. (Reserved. See RCW 4.28.320 and 4.28.160.)
While it’s possible to serve a summons and complaint without filing them, typically they are filed first and then served.
Clients frequently ask: "Will my case go to court?" In most instances, they mean: "Will my case go to trial?" That’s what they mean because in most instances their case has already "gone to court".
It’s increasingly necessary to file suit in order to obtain an offer that represents the full extent of a defendant’s (or the defendant’s insurer’s) settlement authority. While it’s possible to resolve cases without filing suit, more and more it seems like insurers want to test injured person to confirm that they have the constitution and wherewithal to actually file suit and proceed with litigation if a settlement isn’t reached.
This is one of the primary reasons that injured people are almost never able to elicit full value offers for their cases. In fact, as I’ve written before, studies have shown that injured persons representing themselves received less than one third of what injured persons represented by counsel receive. (Assuming a one-third contingent fee, this means that represented persons receive over twice as much on average as unrepresented persons.)
It’s no wonder that so many insurers – and claims adjusters – encourage injured persons not to hire attorneys. They are not motivated by a genuine interest in how much the injured persons "nets" but rather selfish desire to pay out as little as possible.
Court Rule 3 describes how to start a lawsuit. The information establishes a foundation but careful attention has to be paid to related rules and statutes (such as how to properly effectuate service of process). More on that later.