Getting ready for trial
What happens at court before a trial?
The court will try to help the parties resolve a case without it going to a trial.
- general procedure claims - within 14 days after being served with a statement of defence, the claimant must put in the form to the court to request a pre-trial conference (or if the defendant has lodged a statement of defence and counterclaim within 14 days after the claimant has lodged a statement of defence to counterclaim), or the parties can agree to have a pre-trial conference before the claimant is served with a statement of defence, or a statement of defence and counterclaim
- minor case claims - a registrar must list a case for a status conference within 14 days after the defendant lodges a response.
The registrar will let the parties know in writing when and where their conference is on.
What is a status conference?
The purpose of the status conference is to allow the case to be managed by a magistrate.
The magistrate can do things such as make orders about lodging and serving documents and work out what facts (if any) are agreed to by the parties.
You need to have thought about things such as:
- how you will make out (sometimes called 'prove') your case if you are the claimant, for example, what documents you have to back up your claim
- how you will defend your case if you are the defendant
- how many witnesses you will have
- any special requirements, for example, interpreters.
At a status conference in a minor case where liability is admitted (for example, you agree that you caused a car crash that led to damage to another person’s car), but the amount claimed is disputed, the magistrate may:
- make orders to facilitate settlement, or make sure the case is ready to be listed for a hearing, or
- list the case for a hearing.
The magistrate assesses the amount to be awarded for the claim at the final hearing.
If you have not had legal advice about your case before a status conference you should try to get it.
What is a pre-trial conference?
It is a compulsory meeting between the parties to attempt settlement of a case before a registrar.
You don’t need to bring witnesses to a pre-trial conference.
What happens at a pre-trial conference?
The registrar tries to help the parties settle the matter. The registrar can do things such as make orders about lodging and serving documents and work out what facts (if any) are agreed to by the parties.
If the case does not settle at a pre-trial conference:
- With a minor case, the registrar must either list the case for another pre-trial conference or list it for trial.
- With a general procedure claim, the registrar must either list the case for another pre-trial conference or list the case for a status conference.
The registrar will let the parties know the new date in writing.
Do I have to go to a status conference and pre-trial conference?
In a general procedure claim, a party must attend a status conference or may be represented by their lawyer, or the court may order that a party attend in person even if they have a lawyer.
In a minor case, a party must attend a status conference in person.
In a general procedure claim, unless a registrar or magistrate orders otherwise, a party must go to a pre-trial conference.
In minor case a party must attend a pre-trial conference in person.
With written authorisation from a party given to the court, a party's insurer can represent or help at these conferences in minor cases but not at a trial.
If a party’s attendance is likely to cause undue expense or the party is ill, the party may apply to the registrar before the pre-trial conference for permission to attend the conference by audio link. Permission may or may not be granted.
If a party doesn’t go to a pre-trial conference, the registrar at the pre-trial conference may give default judgment against them.
My case is listed for a mediation conference. Do I have to go?
The court can order parties to go to mediation to try to settle a dispute. You have to go unless the mediator approves otherwise.
If the case is not settled at mediation conference, a registrar must list the case for another status conference in a general procedure case and another pre-trial conference in a minor case claim and let the parties know in writing.
Reviewed: 12 September 2022