Usually in the states you only go to a lawyer (abogado) for larger legal items. Here in the DR you will end up heading to the lawyer’s office for quite a few things.
Much like in the United States or other countries it is best to write up a contract for most financial transactions. This includes rental agreements as well as buying and selling property. Once a contract has been drawn it should also be notarized.
Any agreement that is made on paper should be notarized. You will also need to use a notary if you are trying to request documents from government agencies in your home country when completing your residency application. Things like good conduct reports can often be requested by email or fax if the request has been notarized.
Checking Registrations and Histories of Cars and Motorcycles
If you are buying any property including land, automotive, and motorcycles you want to make sure the title is clean before you start passing money. The lawyer can check to see if the bike or car has been stolen as well as if there is any problem with the registration.
Likewise, there has been a rash of property sales in the DR where the person selling the property doesn’t really own the property. Make sure you have a lawyer do a thorough check on the property before you complete the transaction and then have the contract notarized.
Quite often small scrapes and fender benders are ignored here. You can pretty well expect is someone sideswipes or bumps your vehicle they will not stop and they have no plans of paying for the damage. For larger accidents if you are a foreigner it is always best to get a lawyer.
In the DR foreigners are always considered rich and judges will usually lean toward the resident. As an example. In one case a local resident on a motorcycle ran into the back of a vehicle driven by a foreigner as he was slowing down for a speed bump. The Dominican had been drinking and didn’t notice the car showing down. Although he walked away and was seen walking around town the next day, for the court case it was stated that he spent several days in the hospital and sustained a broken leg and other injuries. Of course by the time this went to court it was difficult to prove one way or another.
The foreigner was accused of reckless driving and the court case went on for about 2 years. Unfortunately, this is the basic direction most court cases involving foreigners go. This isn’t to scare you off from coming here; this is just one of the realities of being here.
For smaller items a local lawyer is probably fine. But if you are making a large purchase like a car or a house, or you are involved in an accident you will want to check around and try to find an attorney that is experienced and competent.