How will you Recognise a Lawsuit?
Letters that will indicate a legal case are delivered in yellow envelopes and upon receipt of such a letter it is vital to keep everything relating to it. This letter will be of great importance in evaluating the required timeframes and deadlines to do with the case. The letter itself will include information such as the court order, the claim statement and additional information / appendices relating to the claim itself. There are deadlines involved in such claims and it is vital to be aware of them.
Such a letter should be dealt with early lest one forget to keep it in mind. Deadlines apply as to whether the defendant wishes to launch their defence, whether they want to make an appeal against a judgment etc. If one misses the deadline for defending themselves they can be found liable for simple non-appearance / not defending themselves. It will be seen as the person liable accepts their guilt. Such a decision can be appealed against in an “emergency deadline”, however once again this is subject to a time limit.
Answering the Lawsuit
In order to reply to a lawsuit one does not need to outline their legal defence straightaway. All that is required as a response is a statement that you wish to defend yourself from the claim made. Following this statement, you will then have the chance to submit the grounds upon which you’ll make your defence. Whereas the first letter concerned a simple statement of intention, the second letter will involve submitting a legal basis for your defence as well as evidence. At this point the issue is more complicated and legal counsel may be the best means to use. Reliable legal counsel will provide the legal basis for your intended defence as well as advice on admissible evidence.
The court will not take it upon themselves to ensure that your defence submission follows legal requirements. It will be expected that all legal requirements are followed correctly. The court will not view a submission without legal assistance in an empathetic manner. Therefore, if you are not a legal professional, and do not have experience of litigation in Germany, there is no advantage to be gained for trying to make the submissions without legal assistance.
The German Legal System
The German legal system operates in a different manner to common law jurisdictions as the law in Germany is codified in its different areas. There are codes for the majority of legal areas that specialise in those particular fields. The examples of such include the Administration Procedural Code, the Unfair Competition Law Code and more. However in cases, it is common that certain aspects can involve more than one code. Advice from someone with familiarity with the legal system as well as legal training can therefore be incredibly important. German laws are derived from legislation by the German Bundestag and can also come from European Directives and Regulations. The highest form of domestic legislation is derived from the Grundgesetz (“Basic Law”) which is the German Constitution.
Where civil law jurisdictions, such as Germany and France, differ to common law jurisdictions, such as the UK and USA, is in the concept of precedence. Precedence means that previous cases and decisions act as part of the law. Therefore the judges in later cases are bound by the decisions made by judges in prior cases. A decision made in a prior (similar) case is an important aspect of the decision that will be made for the current case. This is not the way it works for civil law jurisdictions. In these matters the courts are free to make their own decisions by following the law itself and thus not based on prior decisions made by other judges.
The German Court System
Knowing the court system in Germany is also of great importance when it comes to litigation matters. The system is divided into different courts.There are specialist courts and ordinary courts. Firstly, the ordinary courts in Germany are organized into the following: local courts (Amtsgerichte), regional courts (Landgerichte), higher regional courts (Oberlandesgerichte) and the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). Local and regional courts serve as first instance courts, this means that these cases are not based on an appeal, while the higher regional courts and the Bundesgerichtshof are appellate (appeal) bodies. The highest court in Germany is the Bundesverfassungsgericht (the German Federal Constitutional Court). This court will hear matters of huge importance concerning issues relating to the Grundgesetz itself.
However, Germany also has a number of specialist courts.
How long does Litigation take in Germany?
Unfortunately, there is no set answer for this question as the length of time it will take to conclude litigation depends on the nature of the case. Some cases are more straightforward than others. Complex cases will require more research and thus be more time-consuming than others. Cases involving disputes regarding the facts of the matter will take longer than cases that merely concern the law. In such scenarios where the facts are disputed, it may be necessary to avail of witnesses or expert reports. Such procedural aspects result in more work for the court and thus are more time-consuming.
Otherwise, some cases are brought to appeal. In such scenarios they are brought to a higher court which means even more time used on the matter. However, on occasion an appeal is required in order to ensure that justice is delivered. For businesses which want to resolve issues in a timely manner, it is worth considering availing of arbitration services. Such services can save a business time and money but do not tend to include an appeal process.
How much does Litigation cost in Germany?
Once again, there is no set cost for litigation. It will be dependent on the nature of the case. If such a case has a long duration then the costs may increase. The costs for litigation are regulated by the Court Costs Act (Gerichtskostengesetz – GKG), the lawyer’s fee is based on the Lawyers’ Fees Act (RVG) and the rule that is followed is that the more expensive the value of the legal case in question the more expensive the relating costs are. Other aspects such as the amount of time needed to complete the case and whether expert opinions were required will also factore into the cost of the procedure. At the end of the case, the court will make a statement as to how the costs should be divided between plaintiff and defendant.