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The majority of Plaintiffs are unfamiliar with the legal system and do not know when or how lawsuits are filed. Often, Plaintiffs want to have some sort of understanding or road map for the initial legal procedures. While there are many different considerations that determine when and how a lawsuit is filed, there are nonetheless some guiding principals. Here, I identify basic ideas that personal injury plaintiffs should know when initiating a lawsuit.

When Must a Lawsuit Filed

All lawsuits must be filed before the appropriate statute of limitations expires. The statute of limitation is a law that states the specific period of time that a legal action must be filed. If a lawsuit is filed after the statute of limitation expires, then the plaintiff risks a likely motion that would dismiss the lawsuit.

Understanding the relevant statute of limitations can be complicated. Typical personal injury claims have a two-year statute of limitation under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1. However, the two year statute of limitation can be extended or shortened depending on particular situations. For example, claims made against a government agency may be limited to a six-month statute of limitation (See Cal. Gov. Code 911.2). Or claims brought by minors may be tolled until they reach 18 years old, which could extend their statute of limitations. Considering that the deadlines to file a lawsuit are particularly confusing, plaintiffs should promptly consult with lawyers to try preserving the lawsuit before the statute expires.

Pleadings That Start The Lawsuit

For most personal injury lawsuits, the court must receive and file the Complaint, Summons, and Civil Case Cover Sheet. The Complaint is the document that identifies plaintiff’s factual allegations supporting their reasons for the lawsuit and why the court has jurisdiction to oversee the lawsuit. The Summons is a document that orders parties to appear in the lawsuit. And the Civil Case Cover Sheet that summarizes the basic lawsuit terms.

These papers must be filed in the court with the proper jurisdiction, which often is the California Superior Court in the county where the accident occurred. Once the papers are filed, the lawsuit has technically been initiated – even though the Defendant has not received the lawsuit.

Serving The Lawsuit

The filed documents ultimately must be served onto each defendant. Serving the lawsuit requires personally delivering the papers to Defendant. Sometimes service is simple, while other times service can take many attempts or even requiring court assistance.

After the party is served, then a proof of service must be filed with the court. This document lets the court know that the Defendant has been served. Once Defendant tis served, Defendant usually has 30 (thirty) days to file a responsive pleading with the court.

Then, once the Defendant has filed a responsive pleading in the court, the parties may progress with the litigation process, which likely includes discovery into the facts, document productions, and subpoeanas.

Do I Need A Lawyer?

Not all lawsuits must be filed by a law office. Personal injury victims themselves (or occasionally their representatives) can file a lawsuit on their own. When this occurs, the personal injury plaintiff is known to be “in pro per” which simply means they are self-represented. In very few instances, it might be worthwhile for a plaintiff to be self-represented. However, for the majority of cases, plaintiffs should be represented by a competent attorney who can navigate the personal injury litigation process.

To that end, personal injury victims who want to know how and when their lawsuit should be filed, should contact Anderson Franco. Mr. Franco has extensive experience in representing personal injury victims and insurance companies who oppose personal injury lawsuits. This has provided Mr. Franco with invaluable insight into advocating personal injury claims. Contact Mr. Franco today for a consultation.