​Making a claim is when you begin formal legal action against the other party. You make a claim after you have tried the other methods (Final Notice / Letter of Demand, mediation) to recover money you believe is owed to you but haven’t been successful. The claim is firstly lodged with the court and then served on the other party. From now on, you are known as the ‘plaintiff’ and the other party is the ‘defendant’.

Lodging a claim

You fill out the claim form and lodge it at a Civil Registry at any Magistrates Court. The form you need is titled Form 3 - Claim. It is available from the registry or online. You must ensure you bring the original claim plus the correct number of copies. You will need one copy for each plaintiff and two copies for each defendant.

When you lodge a claim, the claim is given an ‘action number’. This number helps the court identify your case. The number belongs to the file and will be put on any documents relating to your case. You should make a note of this number because you may need to include it on some later documents. The number can also be used to provide information to you or other parties about your claim. If you or the defendant go in person to the registry or make inquiries over the phone, you will need to quote the action number.

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Where to lodge a claim

If you lodge your form online, your case will be dealt with in the Adelaide Magistrates Court. If you wish to go in person to a court registry to lodge your claim, you will need to find the registry nearest to where the other party lives or where the matter leading to this action occurred. For example, if the dispute were over a car accident, you would go to the courthouse nearest to the other party involved in the accident or the court nearest to where the accident occurred. To find out the nearest Magistrates Court, contact the court’s call centre or check the Magistrates Court Localities Directory.

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View the fees for commencement of actions. The fee you pay is added to the amount you are claiming from the defendant. If you are successful with your claim, you are entitled to get that money back from the defendant. It doesn’t matter if the fee takes your total over the maximum claim amount for the minor civil division. The fee is regarded as ‘costs’, which is separate to the amount you are claiming is owed to you.

(The claim limit for minor civil division actions is set in Section 3 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1991)

If you want the defendant to pay your lodging fee in the event you are successful with your claim, you must make sure that you have served your final notice or letter of demand to the other party for at least 21 days before you lodge your claim.

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Required information

To fill out the claim form you will need to know:

  • the amount that you want to claim
  • the name and address of the defendant
  • the date(s) of the dispute
  • the reason that you believe you are owed money

If the other party is a company, you will need to have the correct name and registered office address of the company. If you don’t know these details, contact the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as they have details of all registered Australian companies.

If the other party is a business you will need the name of the owner of the business, the correct business name and the business address. If you don’t know these details, contact Consumer and Business Services and they should be able to assist. 

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Serving a claim

Once formal legal action has started by the lodging of a claim, the defendant needs to be notified of the claim. Serving a claim is where the claim form you lodged with the court is either sent or given to the defendant and they are officially notified of the action that you are taking.

There are four ways to serve a claim on the defendant:

  1. the court can post a copy of the claim to the defendant
  2. you can deliver the claim to the defendant yourself
  3. a Sheriff’s officer can deliver the claim to the defendant
  4. you can deliver the claim to the defendant's solicitors

Regardless of the manner in which the claim is served, it will need to include a form called a ‘multilingual notice’ (Form 17). This form is available from any Magistrates Court registry or online. It is included in case the defendant does not understand English well enough to know what the claim is and what they must do about it. It is very important that you include this form.

If you wish to serve the claim yourself there is something important you must remember to do. On the back of one of the copies of the claim you will need to fill out a form called a ‘proof of service’. This must be filled out so you have proof you have either delivered the claim to the defendant or attempted to deliver the claim. Once you have delivered the claim, fill out the proof of service and you will need to file that with the registry.

If the defendant is not there when you deliver the claim, you may leave it with someone else at their home or work, as long as the person you leave it with appears to be over the age of 14. Make sure you fill in the proof of service, whichever method you use, so the court knows the defendant has or should have the claim.

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Costs to serve a claim

It does not cost you anything for the court to serve the claim on the defendant by post. However, if you want a Sheriff’s officer to serve the claim, there will be a fee involved.

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Service of a claim by a Sheriff’s Officer

When you attend the registry to lodge your claim, the staff will ask you how you want the claim to be served. If you want a Sheriff’s officer to serve the claim on the defendant, tell the registry staff and they will arrange for that to occur. They will also inform you of the fee for having the claim served by a Sheriff’s officer.

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