How Long Do You Have To Sue Someone?

Sue Anyone in Small Claims Court How Long Do You Have To Sue Someone?

How Long Do You Have To Sue Someone? 

suing ATT in small claims court with an app

Every lawsuit is different and the limitations that exist on certain forms of lawsuits vary. However, the most important thing is clear; regardless of your state, it is critical to file a lawsuit on time. 

It is also important to note that certain lawsuits interact with time differently; a personal injury suit might have different regulations than a civil or small claim suit. This is called a “statute of limitations” or as civil law refers to it, a “prescriptive period” — a law passed by a legislative body that finalizes the maximum time after an incident within which legal proceedings can be initiated. 


Once this time has passed, a claim cannot be filed or might be dismissed. It is a valid defense to say that a claim raised after the statute of limitations period is not a “pressing” issue. The reasoning behind this is that the American Legal System wants to facilitate a resolution within a “reasonable period of time” as it varies from state to state. 

Below, you will find a guide to working with and around statute limitations, as well as find a guide on how to file a lawsuit. As an individual filing a lawsuit, it is often difficult to keep track of time restrictions, legal requirements, and proceedings. As a solution to this problem, DoNotPay offers an automated system that is web-accessible and can generate lawsuits as soon as needed. 

When Is The Right Time To File A Lawsuit?

As a rule of thumb, the clock starts ticking on the “date of harm” — or the date of injury, property damage, or violation of contractual or legal agreements. 

Another context is the “date of discovery” of harm or the date that a plaintiff (the person who sues) discovers that they have incurred harm. This can be broken down into the following:

Time Example
Earliest Time – the date of harm itself. For instance, someone breaks a legal contract with you on June 11th — June 11th becomes the “date of harm” and the clock begins ticking. Ideally, it is best to file as soon as possible, and as close as possible to the “date of harm”.
Later Time – the reasonable date of discovery of harm; or the date the plaintiff should have reasonably figured out they were being harmed. The date other plaintiffs discovered they incurred harm or a reasonable date (ie. date of follow-up) regarding the harm incurred.

For example, a surgery is performed and malpractice/negligence happens. The date of realization of malpractice (pain, suffering, or emotional trauma) is the “date of discovery” and when the lawsuit should be filed in reference to the time.

Latest Time – the actual date of discovery of harm. Sometimes, plaintiffs discover that they’ve incurred harm years after an incident occurs. There have been medical malpractice cases where plaintiffs had “teenage operations” that sterilized them, and only found out years later when they wanted to have children. The date of discovery, in this case, can be pushed back.

 

How Long Can You Wait To Sue Someone? 

Generally, the time period in which you can wait to sue someone is one year. The exception is that of a government agency, where time periods can vary. Suing within a one-year period ensures that you fulfill the necessary requirements of time for a progressive suit. 

In certain states, the statute of limitation is shorter than one year:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire 
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

Statute of Limitations in California

The table below outlines California’s statute of limitations for common claims:

Lawsuit Statute of Limitation
Medical Malpractice
  • 3 years from date of injury, or
  • 1 year from plaintiff’s discovery of injury
Breach of Contract
  • 2 years for oral contracts
  • 4 years for written contracts
False Accusation
  • 1 year
Personal Injury Due to Negligence 
  • 2 years

What Happens If I File Late?

Judges do not always throw out late claims immediately. A defendant will likely bring this to the judge’s attention, and then the necessary actions will be pursued. If you file late, you run the risk of dealing with the following:

Affirmative Defenses  The defendant can file a complaint stating that the timing of the suit is wrong and that it proves the damages incurred are not relevant 
Motions to Dismiss The defendant could file a motion to dismiss, basically asking a judge to discard an untimely complaint
Federal/State Statutes  Federal and State Statutes could REQUIRE your claim to be thrown out if it bypasses the recommended time of filing

How to Sue Someone?

Suing someone is complex when done alone, but seamless when the correct details are automated and filled out. Here are the steps you should take:

  • File a Verified Complaint – File a document explaining your claim, cause of action, and purpose to the company or individual you are suing. 
  • File a Civil Summons – You may need to complete a civil summons form, a document that can be found on many state courts’ websites. The summons will need to be signed by a lawyer, court clerk, or judge. 
  • Serve the Defendant – Typically, most individuals hire a non-affiliated person to serve the other group their papers.

Sue Anyone Today With DoNotPay 

Although it appears to be simple to sue someone, clauses like “statutes of limitations” and “federal and state restrictions” vastly impact the chances of your lawsuit being correct, comprehensive, and timely. As a solution to this problem, DoNotPay offers automated, clear, and concise lawsuits that have consumer benefits as well as legal protections. All you have to do is:

  1. Log on to DoNotPay on any web browser and select “Sue Now”
  2. Enter the dollar amount that you are owed (this could be lost wages or even adequate compensation to cover injuries and medical bills)
  3. Select whether you’d like to receive a demand letter or court filing forms
  4. Describe your reason for filing the lawsuit, and submit any additional details (including your photo evidence)

That’s all! The robot lawyer will generate a demand letter or court filing forms for you, and a copy of your demand letter will also be mailed to the individual or business you are suing!

DoNotPay – Your Personal AI Lawyer

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