Do You Need A Civil Litigation Lawyer In Singapore?
Before we get into the direct answer whether or not you need a Civil Litigation Lawyer, let us explain the term what does civil litigation means here in Singapore;
What Is Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation is a term of art which refers to contentious Court proceedings involving non-criminal streams of actions in law.
Common disputes referred to as falling within the category of civil litigation include but is not limited to, contractual disputes, shareholder disputes, bankruptcy proceedings against individuals, winding-up proceedings against a company and claims in tort.
Such contentious Court proceeding are also commonly known as a civil suit.
Unlike criminal proceedings which are commenced by Singapore State against an accused, a civil suit is commenced by a party seeking relief from another party.
Who Can Commence A Civil Suit And Why?
A civil suit is a means for a party to seek the Singapore Court’s assistance for an order to be made in his favour, against another party for some other form of relief.
As such, barring any special circumstances (such as bankruptcy) and provided the Singapore Court has jurisdiction, any party who has a legal basis to claim a relief from another party may commence a civil suit.
What To Consider Before Commencing A Civil Suit?
A civil suit can be an expensive and long drawn matter. As such, it is important to take into consideration the following factors before commencing a civil suit. And if you are planning to engage a lawyer, discuss these matters with them.
This will help you decide whether or not you should commence a civil suit. The factors include;
- strength of your case
- complexity of your case
- quantum of your claim
- the likely cost involved
- will defendant have assets to satisfy your claim
1 – The Strength Of Your Case And Complexity
It is important to know in advance the strength of your case as well as its complexity. This will usually depend on the basis in law for your claim, and the evidence available to support your claim.
It is important to know this in advance so that you can estimate the prospect of a successful civil suit and the likely costs which will be involved.
For example; Generally, the weaker and more complex your case is the greater the likelihood the civil suit will be harder to win and the more expensive for you to pursue.
2 – The Quantum Of Your Claim And The Likely Cost Involve To Pursue The Case
The quantum of your claim and the likely cost involved to pursue is something you will want to consider, as the cost involved in pursuing a claim may quickly erode your gains from a successful civil suit.
As such, it may not make sense to pursue a complex civil suit if the quantum of the claim is relatively small, unless your aim is to sue as a matter of principle.
To make a proper assessment, it is a good idea to try and understand from your lawyers the likely cost involved from the outset and a fee estimate in advance.
You should be aware however, that for complex matters it would be difficult for a lawyer to provide an accurate upfront estimate as it may be difficult for the lawyer to know in advance the amount of work that will be required to be done for such matters.
This will usually depend on how parties choose to litigate the matter. In these circumstances lawyers will typically inform you of their hourly charge-out-rate.
3 – Additional Costs To Pay In Civil Suit
You should also be aware that in Singapore, the losing party to a civil suit would usually be also ordered by the Court to pay the winning party some of its costs in respect of the civil suit.
This means that if a plaintiff is successful in his claim, the defendant will usually in addition to the claim amount, also pay costs to the plaintiff.
Similarly, if the plaintiff is unsuccessful in his claim, or drops his case mid-way, he will usually have to pay the defendant costs. It should be noted however, that such costs awarded would usually be insufficient to fully cover all the professional legal fees (and other expenses such Court filing fees and disbursements) that you will need to pay your lawyers.
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4 – Whether The Defendant Has Assets To Satisfy Your Claim
Assuming you have considered your case carefully and intend to proceed with the civil suit, it is a good idea to also consider in advance whether the defendant will have assets to satisfy your claim.
This is because although the Court may make an Order in terms of your claim, it may end up being just a paper judgement if the defendant does not have enough assets to pay you.
For example – if you are aware that the defendant is already close to having a bankruptcy application being made against him, commencing and sustaining a civil suit against him might not make commercial sense.
It may be more efficient to simply file a proof of debt against his estate in bankruptcy. You should also be aware that in Singapore, enforcement proceedings cannot be taken against a defendant’s HDB Flat or CPF account.
You should however take with a pinch of salt, when a defendant claims that he does not have assets, as it is not uncommon for debtors to tell their creditors they have no assets to try and avoid having to make payment.
5 – Searching For Defendant’s Assets
In this regard, you should be aware that it is possible to conduct searches on individuals and companies to try and find out what property they might own, as well as whether there is ongoing litigation against them.
These searches can thus help you to assess the situation better. You should also be aware nonetheless, that it is also not uncommon for debtors to want to avoid being declared bankrupt if possible, and the threat of bankruptcy may convince a debtor to make payment either immediately or through a negotiated installment schedule.
If you are aware and have evidence that the defendant has assets but is dissipating them to frustrate the enforcement of a potential Court order against him, then it may be open for you to consider filing for a Mareva Injunction (a court order freezing defendant’s assets) in the Singapore Court to restrain the defendant from dissipating his assets.
Getting Professional Help In Civil Litigation Cases
As the above matters may be difficult to assess on your own, you may wish to discuss these issues with a lawyer who can help you better whether or not you should commence a civil suit in Singapore.
Depending on the complexity of your case, your lawyer may charge you for providing their professional legal advice in assessing your case.
However, if your case is straight-forward it is not uncommon for lawyers to provide you with a preliminary assessment of your case for free at the initial consultation, together with a fee estimate should you wish to engage them to pursue the matter further.
Aside from the five issues discussed above (which is not meant to be exhaustive), you should also bear in mind that depending on the circumstances of your case there would be variety of other factors that may be relevant for you to consider before commencing a civil suit in Singapore.
As it is impossible to list down all the different circumstances and relevant factors that may be useful for you to consider. It is always advisable to ask your lawyer what are the things that matters when you want to consider a civil suit.
Do also bring to your lawyer’s attention, things that are important to you so that he can advice on how a civil suit might affect such matters.
If you find the above article informative and helpful, you may want to consider making an appointment with one of our lawyers, who can help guide you through this process so that you can make an informed and educated decision on whether to commence a civil suit.
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