1. Filing. 2. File within the statute and you can serve outside the statute.
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"Can you file the lawsuit within the statute and then serve it outside of the statute?" -- Yes. Filing is the operative date. However, depending on the lawsuit or defendant, do not forget to comply with any claims statute prior to filing.
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You need to file your lawsuit within the statute or limitations. Doing that preserves the right to sue and the date of filing is the operative date. The date of service is not relevant for statute of limitations purposes.