Court procedure - Car crashes

car crash self-help guide logoIf the defendant lodges a Notice of Intention to Defend in their response, both the claimant and the defendant need to be aware of the next steps.

What to do after receiving a Notice of Intention to Defend 

You must:

  • complete a statement of claim. This document is meant to explain the basis for your case, and why you think the defendant owes you money, and
  • lodge and serve the statement of claim within 14 days of when you were served with the response, or by another date if ordered by the court registrar. If you lodged a statement of claim when you first started the case, you do not need to complete another one.
What to do after receiving a statement of claim 

You must:

  • complete a statement of defence, and 
  • lodge and serve the statement of defence within 14 days of when you were served with the statement of claim, or by another date if ordered by the court registrar. If the statement of claim was served along with the original claim, the statement of defence can be lodged when you send in your response.
WARNING

Failure to complete these forms may result in the claimant's claim being struck out, or judgment being entered against the defendant. You should get legal advice if you’re not sure what you should include in your statement of claim or statement of defence.

What does the claimant have to do after receiving a statement of defence?

Once the defendant has lodged and served their statement of defence, the case must be listed for a pre-trial conference. The claimant must ask the court to list a pre-trial conference in a general procedure claim. The court will do this for you in a minor case claim.

You should bring any witness statements and other documents (for example, photos, police statements, repair quotes) you think may be useful with you to the pre-trial conference.

At the pre-trial conference, the court registrar will help the claimant and defendant identify the issues that need to be decided in the case, and explore possible settlement options.

If the case does not settle, the registrar can refer the matter to mediation, or list the case for a trial.

Can I make an offer to settle the case?

You can try to settle at any time during the court process.

Be open minded about offers of settlement – it may save time, money and avoid stress! The outcome at trial can be uncertain: for example, if you reject an offer of settlement and the case then goes to a hearing at court, the magistrate could decide the other person owes you less than they initially offered. 

What happens at the trial?

The court must act fairly and give the claimant and the defendant a chance to present their cases.   

The claimant must prove:

  • who the defendant is
  • that the defendant was negligent, and
  • how much damage they caused.

The claimant and the defendant can both give evidence about what happened to cause the crash, and can ask questions of each other’s evidence and the witnesses’ evidence. Both should bring any other evidence to support what they are saying. Witnesses can only give evidence about relevant facts. Facts are what people directly hear or see, and are not opinions. The court will only hear opinions from experts.

Once the claimant and the defendant have finished presenting their cases, the magistrate may decide the outcome at the hearing or give their decision on a later date.  

Courtroom layout

This picture shows what a typical courtroom might look like.

Roles of people in a courtroom

Magistrate

The magistrate is the person who decides your case. The magistrate sits at the highest table in the court room. They might ask you questions (or ask your lawyer, if you have one). You can ask the magistrate to repeat anything you don’t understand, or ask any questions you might have. You should call the magistrate, 'Your Honour'.

JSO - Judicial support officer

The JSO is a court officer who sits in front of the magistrate. They help with the administrative tasks in court, such as recording exhibits and swearing in witnesses.

Court Orderly

The Court Orderly directs people to the correct court room and 'calls' a matter when the court is ready to hear the case. The Orderly reminds people about the rules for appearing in court. If you have any questions about the court process, they can help you personally, or direct you to the correct person to speak to at the court.

Claimant

The claimant is the person who starts a claim in the Magistrates Court. The claimant sits on the right hand side of the bar table.

Defendant

The defendant is the person named as the other party in the claim. They sit on the left hand side of the bar table.

 

Useful documents

Find legal answers

Going to court over money
About the law

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.