Starting a claim

If you are owed under $75,000, and out of court attempts to negotiate for the debt to be paid have failed, you may need to go to the Magistrates Court of WA to get your money. Court should be a last resort as it can be costly, time-consuming, and stressful. Also you may not get the outcome you want. 

You should always seek legal advice before going to court. 

If you have to go to court here is some information on the nuts and bolts of starting a claim in the Magistrates Court.

Find out:

  • The different ways to start a claim in the Magistrates Court
  • If time limits apply
  • Who you can make a claim against
  • What you can claim for.

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)
  • partnerships
  • companies
  • 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
  • interest.

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?

You can lodge your claim at the registry at most Magistrates Courts in Western Australia.

When you can, it is best to lodge your claim at 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
  • contact the court you select to check if you can lodge it there.

 

Resources

 

Reviewed: 11 April 2018

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.