Why Time is Important when you File a Lawsuit

Every facet of the lawsuit process is governed by time. The clock starts ticking the moment an accident or other incident occurs. Deadlines are set based on what happened and the jurisdiction where it occurred. In the USA, a plaintiff may have as little as one year to file an injury suit and as many as 10 years to sue over a contractual dispute.

As soon as a clerk of courts time-stamps a new lawsuit, the plaintiff and defendant are bound by a court set schedule. A schedule organizes the flow of cases through the courts and minimizes delays.

Statute of limitations

A plaintiff must file his suit before the statute of limitations expires. For example, if an injury occurrs in Ohio, the Accidents.com statute of limitations chart shows that a plaintiff must file within two years or give up his right to sue.

In some jurisdictions a plaintiff may seek to “toll the statute.” Lawbrain.com explains: “When the statute is tolled, the running of the time period is suspended..” This can be an option when a plaintiff is severely disabled, a minor or subject to other exceptions.

Filing an answer

After an attorney serves the defendant a copy of a lawsuit, he will have a deadline to file his answer. Often a dispute over fault is the reason a case ends up in a lawsuit in the first place; so it’s possible the other party might be the first to sue. He may also choose to file a counter suit when he answers the plaintiff’s suit. The plaintiff must then file a timely answer.


Discovery is exactly what the name implies. Plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys try to discover what information and evidence the other party has. They work with a court-set deadline to arrange depositions, document production and other formal activities needed to settle or proceed to trial.

Alternative dispute resolution

Judges often push the settlement process with a schedule of mandatory settlement conferences, arbitrations or mediations. This forces attorneys and their clients to negotiate and prove they’ve put forth a good faith settlement effort before proceeding to trial. 


As the authors of “Let’s Not Make A Deal: An Empirical Study Of Decision Making In Unsuccessful Settlement Negotiations” explained, “The vast majority of civil cases, of course, are resolved by voluntary settlements or pretrial proceedings.” It’s true, your case probably won’t go to trial; but if it does, it will follow a tight schedule set by the court.

Settlement checks and documents

Once a settlement is negotiated or a judgment rendered, defendants must pay and plaintiffs must file executed settlement documents before the court deadline expires.