If you would like to sue somebody or you are being sued in Germany, this overview of the legal proceedings should give you a broad idea of what to do and what to expect.
1) First Steps
a) You are suing someone
If you would like to sue somebody, you have to file a written complaint with the responsible court. The responsible court is usually the court where the defendant lives. With the complaint you have to pay the court fees in advance. The court fees are calculated upon the amount of money you are seeking by the complaint. The higher the sum, the higher the court fee is. For instance, in order to file a complaint for 5.000,- EUR a court fee of 438,- EUR has to be paid in advance, while for a claim of 1.000,- EUR the court fee is only 159,- EUR.
Especially if you think, that the defendant will not challenge your claim, then a much cheaper possibility is, to apply for a Mahnbescheid. For instance, the court fees for a Mahnbescheid over 1.000,- EUR are only 32 EUR.
b) You are being sued
If you are being sued, the most important rule is, to adhere to the deadlines, that are being set by the court. It is very possible to lose the case, simply due to missing deadlines.
If you have received a letter by a German court, usually in a yellow envelope with a date and a signature on the outside, and you feel you are wrongfully sued, it is time to act.
If you received a MAHNBESCHEID - which also comes in a yellow envelope and consists of one large sheet of paper and is a first step of a law suit - you have 14 days after you received the letter to object to the claim.
If you have received a VOLLSTRECKUNGSBESCHEID, which resembles the Mahnbescheid in appearance, you also have 14 days to object to it. If you miss the 14 day deadline after the Vollstreckungsbescheid, the case is very likely lost without the chance of an appeal.
The same 14 day deadline applies, if you have received a writ of summons served by a German court. If you would like to object to the claim, you need to present the facts in your favor to the court in a written answer. You can name witnesses and demand expert opinons to back your answer to a complaint.
2) Court hearing and language
After the parties have presented their facts, the court will summon a hearing. The first hearing is usually a settlement hearing, in which the judge will try to reach an agreement between the parties. If this fails, witnesses are heard (if necessary) and based on the facts presented by the parties the judge will come to a written judgement.
The language of the court is German. This means, that all written statements have to be filed in German and also the witnesses are questioned in German.
An interpreter will be present, if one party asks for this or the court finds it necessary.
Both parties may appeal the judgement of a first level court, if the claim is more than 600,- EUR. If the claim is less than 600,- EUR, the decision by the first level court is final.
4) Costs and fees
For attorney's fees in court, please check my category fees.
In German private law, a "winner takes it all rule" applies in litigation. This means, that the person, that loses in court has to bear all the costs of a court case. This includes court fees, attorney's fees of both sides (as regulated by German law) and costs for necessary experts or to reimburse witnesses. For that reason, it is often agreed in case of a settlement, that each side bears its own costs and that the court fees are split between the parties. In case of a settlement, the court fees are reduced by 2/3, which means that if the court fees are split, each party only has to pay a 1/6 of the court fees.
You can reach me at 0631 - 84 27 759 or you can also write me an e-mail and I will respond within one day.
If you do not live in Germany or not anymore, but still have a case in Germany pending or you have claims against a person or company in Germany, I can gladly assist you. Neither a plaintiff nor a defendant have to be necessarily present in Germany in a civil law suit. A lawyer can act as a proxy. I have and still represent clients that live abroad and all cases have been and are very well handled via phone and e-mail.
Tel: 0631 / 84 27 759
Fax: 0631 / 27 75 73 009