If you have been served a claim, you can choose to defend it but you must act within the time limit. If you do not defend it, the consequences are summarised below.
Being involved in a matter can be a complex and costly process. You should seek legal advice before defending a civil claim. You can also speak to the other party to try to resolve the dispute.
The steps below provide general information about defending a civil matter. They do not cover all scenarios nor constitute legal advice.
Before you begin
If you accept the applicant's claim
If you accept the applicant's claim, you can resolve the matter by paying the applicant the amount or doing what they asked of you in their claim including paying any costs. Do not send money to Court.
If you accept that you owe the full amount claimed but cannot afford to pay the amount in full, you can try to arrange instalment payments with the applicant. You can use an Enforceable Payment Agreement (EPA) where in return for you acknowledging the debt and making payments, the applicant agrees not to report the debt to credit referencing agencies. You can obtain these from the CAA website or any Court Registry. You should keep a record of any payments made.
If you take no action
If you take no action within 28 days, the applicant may apply for a default judgment against you. A court judgment against you may affect your credit rating.
If you agree there is an amount owed but disagree with the amount or something else claimed
If you agree there is an amount or something else owed but disagree with the amount or something else claimed, try to negotiate with the applicant. If the applicant agrees, you may be able to use a mediation service.
If you accept that you owe some of the amount or something else claimed, you could pay or do part of what they ask to reduce the amount in dispute or scope of the dispute.
Regardless of whether you mediate or pay or do part of what is sought, if you wish to defend the claim you must you still file a defence within 28 days of being served with a claim.
You can file a Form 121 Formal Offer. Note that if you pay in full there is no need to file an offer.
If you wish to defend the claim
If you wish to defend the claim you must file a defence.
You must do this within 28 calendar days of being served with a claim within Australia or 30 business days if you are served with a claim outside Australia.
If you wish to defend a short form statement of claim
To defend a short form Statement of Claim use Form 51S Defence Details - lodged or uploaded with Defence Shell and put your responses in the relevant sections as appropriate. Alternatively, put your response in Part 2.
For more information on defending a short form statement of claim refer to the Rules.
What you need
There are no fees for defending a civil claim. There are usually costs penalties for resisting a successful claim.
How to lodge a defence to a claim
- Log in to CourtSA
- Complete and lodge the Case Access Request form
- Your request will be reviewed by Court Services. When approved a Notice of Acting will be generated and you will receive an email granting you access. After you have received this email, continue with the following steps
- Go to "My Cases"
- Find the case you wish to lodge a defence against and click "View Case"
- Click "Actions", select "Defence, Crossclaim, or Reply" and select "Defence"
- Upload your Form 51S Defence Details with Defence Shell
- Lodge your defence
What happens next
If your defence is to a minor civil claim:
Your defence will be automatically approved for filing and you will receive an email from CourtSA with information about what happens next.
If your defence is not to a minor civil claim:
You will receive an email confirming that your defence has been received for review by the Court. If it is approved for filing, you will receive an email with information about what happens next. If it is rejected, you will receive an email explaining why it was rejected.
If your defence is approved:
Using the information you provided, CourtSA will generate a sealed Form 51 Defence Shell and append your Form 51S Defence Details uploaded with Defence Shell.
You will receive an email from CourtSA letting you know that your defence has been accepted for filing and that the sealed Form 51 Defence is available on CourtSA.
You will need to serve the Defence on the Applicant at their address for service as soon as practicable
The Court will list the matter for a directions hearing and send a notice of hearing to all parties.