“How Long Does A Civil Lawsuit Take In California?”
Most cases (which include limited civil cases between $10,000 and $25,000 as well as unlimited cases with a value of over $25,000) are subject to the “Fast Track” system. The goal of the fast track system is to have civil trials within one year of the date of the filing of the lawsuit. So for most cases, you can expect a trial about one year out from filing.
However, there are some major exceptions to this. Anything that qualifies as “complex litigation” will be put in a different track and will take years more. Also, even for normal fast track cases, there can be delays for any number of reasons. A case can be continued because of courtroom unavailability (all too common these days with the budget cuts), because one party has discovered additional facts and needs time to conduct discovery, because of witness unavailability, or because a new attorney is coming into the case and needs to get up to speed on the facts and issues. Sometimes new parties are even added after filing or during the course of the lawsuit, which means the new party and attorney are entitled to time to catch up to the rest of the parties and conduct their own discovery and investigation.
Small claims cases are also an exception, and generally are heard within two or three months of filing, so if a case fits under the small claims filing guidelines, that can be a more speedy option for litigants. However, you should be aware that attorneys are not allowed to appear in small claims cases (with only extremely limited exceptions) so you will be litigating on your own in small claims.
DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.