How does the Spanish civil justice system work?
Unlike in England & Wales and other common law jurisdictions, in Spain it is the court that must serve proceedings on a defendant. A claimant (or their lawyer) may prepare a claim and submit it to the court without delay, but the court may take months to serve the claim on the defendant. A defendant may have 20 working days to respond to a claim by submitting a defence, but once the court receives the defence it may take months to forward the defence to the claimant. The result is costly delays in resolving claims – leading to higher lawyers’ fees, delayed compensation, and unnecessary claims for interest.
Delays in the Spanish court system affect your access to justice: “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”
It is arguable that these delays seriously affect access to justice in Spain. A complaint to the court about the delay is likely to take longer to be heard than the claim itself. There is no way around the problem, which will not be resolved until there is the political will and a sufficient budget to overhaul the Spanish courts system. This will take a very long time to come about.
Parties must engage lawyers in order to litigate in Spain
Another often overlooked factor is that litigants cannot litigate without first engaging a lawyer. In Spain you cannot be a “litigant in person”. Very often a “procurador” (an administrative intermediary between the lawyer and the court) must also be engaged.
Costs of litigation in Spain can be very high
While litigating in Spain is not as expensive as in England & Wales, there are still lawyers’ fees and disbursements to be considered. In addition, the cost attributable to delay (such as interest due on delayed claims for compensation) can also be significant.
Because legal costs are only awarded following a trial, Spanish lawyers are not incentivised to settle early.
Contact us for further information
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By telephone on +44 (0)20 3478 1424.
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