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How to Respond to a German Lawsuit

Facing a German lawsuit is challenging. Facing any lawsuit is difficult! However, this is especially the case when you might not be certain how the legal system operates and thus not know what is expected of you. On our page Litigation Lawyers in Germany, we outlined the different types of courts in Germany and the cases that end up at those courts. On this page, we will delve into more detail at what one should do when they find themselves facing a German lawsuit. In court cases, as we will see, it can be vital that you have reliable legal assistance in your corner. Should you find yourself needing legal counsel make sure to remember Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte. Our attorneys at law are experienced when it comes to a wide variety of legal issues. We know the German legal system and thus can provide the comprehensive representation you deserve.

When it comes to the German legal system our litigation lawyers will be by your side

As a full service law firm, Schlun & Elseven will support you in your German lawsuit comprehensively.

How can I Bring a Lawsuit in Germany

There will be occasions when a lawsuit is justified and necessary. Make sure to consult with legal counsel prior to proceeding with the German lawsuit. Experienced German legal representation will provide the legal grounds needed and outline your chances in the case itself. However, after having consulted and after agreeing to pursue the lawsuit the next steps are to make the legal claim at the appropriate court. Your lawyer will provide the information you need as to which court to approach and how to do so.

Once the claim has been made, and the amount sought after stated, the court will issue the court fee. This is based on the value of the case and thus the amount sought after by the plaintiff. The more sought for, the higher the resulting court fee. These fees have to be paid in advance.

The court fee has to be paid in advance. If you plan on bringing the matter to the courtroom, these fees have to be paid. If they are not the claim may not see the light of day and will just gather dust. Therefore, it is a commitment to bring a case to court and the original court fees are only the start of what could potentially be an expensive outlay. However, if as a plaintiff you are happy to pursue justice then it is better to pay the court fees and start the legal process.

When the court has been contacted and informed of the lawsuit, the accused will be issued with a letter about the claim. There will be a deadline of usually two weeks in which they have the chance to respond. Should they not respond within that time-frame the case can be awarded to you by default. Should they respond stating that they will challenge the claim then the case is likely to process to a court case. It is vital to plan the approach to be taken with your lawyer from here on.


How can I Defend Myself Against a German Lawsuit

If you are being sued you will receive a letter. These letters will be delivered in yellow envelopes and upon receipt of such a letter it is vital to keep everything relating to it. At this point, the most important thing to keep in mind is the deadline. There are deadlines with the initial response and with the response concerning how you plan to approach the case itself. Should such deadlines be missed, the entire German lawsuit could be lost before the defence is even launched.

The letter received will outline who is bringing the case, the reason for the lawsuit and the court involved. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep the documentation involved in a court case. It is also vital to remember that time is of the essence and deadlines are key to ensuring that you can defend yourself.

Should you reply to the first letter it will simply state that you are willing to defend yourself. Following that letter, there will be another letter to be sent outlining how you will defend yourself and the witnesses that you plan to call upon. This also typically has a two week deadline in which to respond. In this letter, the legal reasoning will have to be outlined and therefore it is advisable to consult with a German legal expert who will provide you with the assistance required.

For cases with elements specific to Germany (purely German lawsuits), the deadlines in question tend to be two weeks – so time is of the essence. For international cases, because of the fact that that they can be more complicated and organising takes longer, the deadlines can be extended to four weeks. Consult with your legal professional about the deadlines in your case.


Can the Court Case be in English?

The working language of the courts in Germany is German. The proceedings will be heard through German and all written submissions should be in German. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that you have an English-speaking lawyer in your corner if you are uncomfortable in using German at such a level. Furthermore, having documents translated into English from a qualified translator is also of huge value. False translations or interpretations can lead to problems down the line so having a professional to assist here is vital.

For witnesses who do not speak German they will have the questions asked of them translated into English (or the appropriate language). Your legal team should make sure that an interpreter is present at the lawsuit.


Can I Represent Myself in a German Lawsuit?

For smaller cases at first instance, at the Amtsgericht (district court), it is possible to represent yourself. This may be attempted to “save costs” but should the other side have a lawyer it puts them at an advantage. It is worth remembering that a German lawyer will have many years of legal training behind them as well as full comfort in court procedure and proceedings in German. Not having a lawyer by your side is a very risky step to take.

Even in cases where you feel that it is unlikely you will win, having a German lawyer by your side may mitigate the losses. Working together, you may be able to achieve a decent settlement. Having an experienced and highly capable lawyer at your disposal may even be able to turn that unlikely case into a victory! At higher courts, and on appeal, a lawyer must be present. At the higher levels, the courts will not even consider self-representation.


Can I have a Foreign Lawyer Represent me in a German Lawsuit?

Should the lawsuit take place in a German courtroom, this can be very difficult. In the regional and higher regional courts (Landesgericht and Oberlandesgericht) this is not possible unless they have been admitted to the German bar. This is because it is only permissible for lawyers admitted to the German bar (Rechtsanwaltskammer) to conduct the case. In order to be admitted to the German bar and thus be able to represent individuals in German court, the individual must completing legal studies at a university, completed and passed the first state examination and completing a two-year period of legal internship as well as the second state examination. As can be seen it is an arduous process.

When it comes to preparing the case, it is possible to consult with the lawyers from your home country or another jurisdiction. However, it is advisable to have a German lawyer on-hand as well as there are differences between jurisdictions, legal processes and legal systems. If you are uncomfortable with the proceedings being through German, having an English-speaking lawyer in your corner will make sure that communication throughout the lawsuit is open, clear and that it does not get lost in translation.


Are There Other Options Besides Bringing the Lawsuit to Court

Settling a court case can contribute to savings in terms of time and money. This is especially true when a case involves international elements. Such cases can last for months on end, especially when witnesses and expert statements are required from those living outside of Germany. In terms of strategy, it may not be the best to seek an out-of-court settlement straightaway as the other side might view this as weakness or admission of guilt. However, as a case drags out it is certainly an option worth considering. This is especially so if you are approaching from a position of strength but do not wish to be caught up in a lengthy lawsuit.

In German law, once court cases are decided the winner takes it all. This means that the losing party will have high fees – lawyers and courts fees – to pay. In this light, a negotiated lower settlement fee can be attractive in the circumstances and is worth considering if you wish to save time. However, make sure to consult with your legal representation in order to ensure that you are coming at this from a strong position. That can make all the difference!


The Role of Witnesses in a German Lawsuit

Witnesses have an important role to play in a German lawsuit as they are there to help the court when it comes to issues of fact. Witnesses provide oral evidence at cases and must provide the truth. Should a witness be found to have committed perjury (of deliberately misleading the court) they can be given a prison sentence for doing so. The level of a sentence will depend on the nature of the information provided, whether it was a deliberate action or whether the statement was issued due to negligence.

Witnesses must appear at court (unless they have a valid and accepted excuse) and can be fined for not doing so. Excuses for not appearing can include issues such as illness and in such cases the witness should supply a medical certificate if called upon. Exemptions do exist for blood-relatives to the defendant as well as for spouses and fiancées. Those from certain professions such as lawyers, journalists, doctors and clergy can refuse to give information if it would be damaging to them professionally.


The Role of Experts in a German Lawsuit

Experts: The role of the expert in German lawsuits is outlined from § 402 German Code of Civil Procedure onward. The expert is a neutral appointee of the court who is asked to supply their considerable opinion to the court. This opinion will form part of the evidence considered by the court, however, the court makes the final judgment. This expert is appointed by the court but the expert chosen is done with the recommendation of the parties involved. Once this expert is in the court, they supply independent and impartial advice to the court based on the topic at hand.

Experts normally submit written accounts but can be called for oral examination should the parties demand it. This oral examination allows for the issues to be discussed in greater detail. Should the court feel that the expert is too closely linked to one of the parties or that the advice provided is prejudicial, the advice can be rejected.

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Litigation Lawyers at Schlun & Elseven

Facing a court case presents difficulties. This is even more true when you do not know how the legal system in Germany operates. A litigation lawyer will provide the peace of mind you need as they will be able to guide you through the process. At Schlun & Elseven, our litigation lawyers understand the discomfort a client can feel when they have not had dealings with the German legal system before. With our clients, we promote the policy of clear communication to ensure that they understand the entire process and that they are advised in an understandable manner. When you have experienced assistance in your corner, a German lawsuit can be more manageable.

We provide services in a range of languages to ensure that you are kept informed of the developments throughout the case. With offices in Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf as well as conference rooms in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart we are available nationwide. Should you require more personalised advice from a German litigation lawyer, make sure to contact our office directly. We are looking forward to working with you.

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