How to File a Lawsuit

How to File a Lawsuit

Ernst Legal Education 101:

Knowledge is power. We are going to walk you through the basics of what happens when you file a lawsuit.

lawsuit workings

Filing a Lawsuit

As an injured party, you can choose to file a lawsuit. Everyone worries about the country being lawsuit prone- but there are fewer lawsuits today than there were 20 years ago. Why? The insurance lobbying effort over the last 20 years has been designed to create this public idea and reduce their exposure.

When you file a lawsuit in a civil case, you are asking the court to resolve a dispute that cannot be resolved easily. When you decide to file a lawsuit, you or your lawyer file a “complaint.” This complaint is filed with the court and identifies who you are suing, the basis for your lawsuit, and the court where the lawsuit is filed. The court staff then opens a file for your case and issues you a case number.


A lawsuit has a limited amount of time to be filed. This is known among lawyers as the “Statute of Limitations.” When you run out of time to file a lawsuit, it is referred to as the Statute of Limitations expiring. After this time passes you generally cannot file a lawsuit.

The lengths of time for several common types of actions in California are as follows:

  1. Personal Injury or Wrongful Death: 2 years. (CCP §335.1)
  2. Damage to Personal Property: 3 years  (CCP §338)
  3. Breach of a Written Contract: 4 years (CCP §337)
  4. Breach of an Oral Contract: 2 years (CCP§339)
  5. Claims Against Government Entity: 6 months
  6. Medical Malpractice: 1 year


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