Legal proceedings in Germany

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If you have a dispute with a private person or a company, you can go to court and file a complaint.

For example, you can sue for money, for goods that have not been delivered, for repairs that have not been carried out properly or for damages.

In this article, we will only look at the procedure in the German civil courts.

Summary: Legal proceedings

  • A lawsuit is an application for a court decision.
  • The average duration of proceedings before a German district court is around five months.
  • Civil cases with a value of up to 5,000 euros can be brought without a lawyer.

What is a court case?

A lawsuit is a request for a court decision (judgement).

This happens when two parties are in dispute and cannot come to an agreement, for example over a claim for money or damages.

If the court agrees that the claim is valid, a court case is opened and a judge makes a decision.


Civil disputes up to €5,000 can be brought to court without a lawyer.

How does a court case work?

To file a lawsuit, you must first go to the appropriate court.

The court is usually located in the other party's place of residence or business.

If the amount in dispute is less than €5,000, the local court will handle the case.

If the amount in dispute is more than €5,000, you must bring the case before the competent regional court.

If you are successful, the court will inform the other side in writing.

The other side is then given the opportunity to respond to the statement of claim. In most cases, the allegations are denied.

This is usually followed by oral proceedings, where you meet in court and discuss the dispute with the other side.

Ideally, the judge will make a decision at the end of the case, or you will reach a compromise (settlement) with the other side.

This is a simplified description. You can contact the courts if you have any questions about the exact procedure.

How long does a court case take?

There is no general answer to this question.

The length of a lawsuit always depends on the scope of the proceedings and the workload of the court.

It can also be affected by how quickly the parties submit the necessary documents and keep the agreed appointments.

On average, the total duration of proceedings before a German district court is around five months.

How expensive is a court case?

If the case goes to court, court costs and legal fees will be based on the amount in dispute.

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