Starting a claim
What are the different ways of starting a claim for a debt in the Magistrates Court?
There are two types of claim for debt or damages in the Magistrates Court civil jurisdiction:
- general procedure (for claims from $10,000 up to $75,000) (Form 3), and
- minor case for claims less than $10,000 (Form 4).
The Magistrates Court also deals with consumer/trader claims. These types of claims arise out of a contract between a consumer and a trader for
- the supply of goods or
- the provision of services.
A consumer/trader claim can be started as a general procedure claim (Form 7) or as a minor case claim (Form 6) depending on the value of the claim.
Do time limits apply?
Most legal proceedings must start within a certain period of time.
In some circumstances special considerations apply to actions concerning children and people with mental impairment.
In some cases:
- the court may extend time limits
- the time limit cannot be extended and you will be unable to have the court hear your case.
Seek legal advice as soon as possible about:
- what these time limits are, and
- what to do if you are outside a time limit.
Who can I make a claim against?
You can make a claims against the following people or organisations:
- individuals (get legal advice about making a claim against a person with a legal disability such as an intellectual impairment or a person under 18, because special rules apply)
- certain corporations such as hospital boards, local governments, etc
- incorporated associations such as social clubs, churches, etc.
Can I make a claim against more than one person?
In some circumstances you may name more than one defendant on the claim. This is called joining defendants.
Joining defendants may be done when a claim is lodged or at a later date.
You should always get legal advice before joining defendants.
What do I put on the claim form?
You must give the following information when lodging the claim:
- The identity of the defendant. It is essential that you correctly identify the defendant on the claim (be careful with businesses. You may need the name of the owner). Get legal advice if you are not sure who the correct defendant is.
- Full names and addresses of all parties including all the partner's names if making a claim against a partnership and the Australian Company Number (ACN) if making a claim against a company.
- A summary of what is claimed.
When starting the claim, you can claim, and add to the amount sought, costs for things such as:
- service fees
- costs to do with transporting witnesses
- arranging quotes, etc
You do not have to specify the amount of costs. Write on the claim that you are claiming costs.
You must sign each copy of the claim. Photocopies and carbon copies of signatures are not acceptable.
Which Magistrates Court should I start my claim at?
When you can, it is best to select the the Magistrates Court nearest to either:
- the home or business address of the defendant which existed not more than six months before the claim was lodged, or
- the place where the claim arose either wholly or in part.
to lodge your claim at. Select from the drop down menu as you fill in your online application.
How to lodge your claim
You must lodge your claim and other documents in your case online at the eCourt Portal together with any fee required. You must register to lodge any documents.
If you cannot lodge electronically you can ask for an exemption for one document or all documents in your case. You must apply on the approved form.
A registrar may grant your application. The court can also for any good reason, and without a formal application or request, exempt you from lodging a document or documents electronically.
If you are exempted from lodging a document electronically, the court or a registrar may give directions to you about how to lodge the document. This could include over the counter at the court, by post, by email or by fax.
Reviewed: 30 June 2020