​The trial will usually be about two to three months after the directions hearing but will depend on the current case load of the court.

Preparations

There are a number of things you should do before a trial to prepare yourself in order to give the Magistrate a good, clear account of your story.

How to tell your story

Have a think about how you want to tell your story. Decide what you want the Magistrate to hear about your version of events and think about the best way to get your version across. It is good to prepare a checklist so you can make sure you don’t forget anything. A checklist will also help you to put things in a chronological order so the Magistrate doesn’t get confused about timing. Remember, the story is familiar to you but the Magistrate will know nothing about it. It is important that you put things in order for them so that they are able to follow what has happened and make their decision with the correct information.

Prepare your documents

Make sure you have collected all the documents that you have or can get hold of in order to support your claim. Bring along anything you think may help the Magistrate in making their decision. It is always good to have documents to support what you are saying and the Magistrate will want to see any documents you have. Try to get the documents organised so that you don’t waste time during the trial searching through a large pile of papers. It is a good idea if you can bring copies of your documents for the Magistrate and for the other party.

Examples of documents you might bring along to support your claim are:

  • invoices
  • receipts
  • quotes
  • emails
  • bank statements
  • contracts
  • letters
  • photographs

These are just some examples so feel free to bring along anything else you think might help.

Arrange your witnesses

If you have any witnesses to support your claim, organise for them to come along on the date of the trial. Only bring the people who are most necessary to your story. It will cost money for them to be heard at the trial as compensation for the time they’ve taken to come to court. The costs of a witness will usually be awarded as costs against the losing party but don’t forget that it could be you paying those costs if you aren’t successful.

If you have a witness who refuses to come to court, you can serve them with a subpoena. This is an official court notice, ordering a person to attend court as a witness. Make sure that you absolutely need this person before serving them with a subpoena because they may not want to give too much evidence in your favour if you have forced them to come against their will. Only do so if it is completely necessary to your case.

If you want to subpoena a witness, you will need to get leave of the court to do so. To make a request to the court a subpoena can be lodged via the online CourtSA portal. You will be required to follow the on-screen instructions and ensure you have prepared the necessary documents to upload with your request. Once approved the subpoena will be available to view and print via the portal. The lodging party will be responsible to serve all required witnesses with the subpoena.

See the Attending as a Witness section for further information

Discovery

Before trial you will need to make discovery of the documents you want to rely on in court. Discovery is where you provide a list of those documents to the respondent and then they do the same for you, so each of you will not be surprised by anything the other produces at the trial. This is to be done before the trial. If the respondent refuses to give you discovery of their documents, you can apply to the court for an order that they give you discovery. Contact the court  enquiry@courts.sagov.au to apply for an order for discovery.

Expert reports

Some parties might want to rely on the opinion of an expert to give an independent assessment. An expert may be a medical person, scientist, accountant or any other person who is in a specialised field who may be able to give the court special knowledge that the court would not be likely to have. If you intend to rely on the report of an expert, you will need to send a copy of the report not less than 2 business days before the first directions hearing. Remember, an expert may be expensive so only get an expert report if you believe it is absolutely necessary. The expert should also be available to attend the trial to clarify anything in the report if the Magistrate requires.

Legal advice

Although you can’t have a lawyer with you for a minor civil trial, you might want to speak with one before the trial to get some assistance. You do not need to do this and it is completely your choice whether you think it would be helpful to you to speak with someone. The other party will not be able to have a lawyer at the trial either and they may not wish to get any legal advice, so don’t feel pressured to speak with a lawyer if you think you are well prepared for your trial.

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I don’t speak or understand English well enough

If you think that you don’t speak or understand English well enough to understand what is happening at a trial or to get your story across properly, you are able to have an interpreter present. The court is able to arrange this for you, but you will need to let them know at least five working days before the trial. You will need to notify them in writing to enquiry@courts.sa.gov.au that you need an interpreter, what language you speak and the CIV court file number of your matter.

You are also able to arrange for an interpreter if you have any witnesses that will require assistance with English. There is no cost to you to have an interpreter for yourself or for your witnesses.

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