Commencing court proceedings
This fact sheet should be used when you want to bring a claim for damages in the Magistrates, District or Supreme Courts.
There are a number of issues which you should consider before bringing a claim such as:
- Has the relevant time limit or "limitation period" expired?
- Are there alternative avenues for recovering damages, such as a letter of demand or mediation?
- Do I have a legal "cause of action" that might entitle me to damages (just because you have a grievance, does not mean you will necessarily be entitled to damages)?
Starting proceedings in court claiming damages is a serious step. There may be serious cost consequences for you if your claim is not successful. There are a number of different sources of free legal advice (such as Legal Aid and community legal centres) that you should consult before you start a claim.
This fact sheet is designed to help you get started.
Before we get started
In this factsheet, "UCPR" means Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999.
The UCPR are the formal rules that set out how civil court claims must be conducted, from the first step to initiate proceedings right through to what to do after the court has made final orders after a trial. If you ever need to know what the next step is in your court proceedings, or how to complete a particular step, you can look it up in the UCPR.
Step 1: Select the court (and registry)
Once you have decided to bring a claim and confirmed that you have a valid cause of action, the first step is to decide in which court and in which registry to bring your claim.
You firstly need to ask - what result do I want?
The table below shows in which court you should bring a claim, based upon the amount of damages that you are claiming.
|Amount of Damages||Correct Court|
|$0 - $25,000.00||Your claim may be a Minor Civil Dispute and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal may be able to hear your matter.|
|Up to $150,000.00||Magistrates Court|
|$150,001 - $750,000||District Court|
|$750,001 and above||Supreme Court|
In some cases, you will want the court to do something other than award compensation. You might want the court to make a declaration, to order specific performance of an agreement or to grant an injunction preventing a defendant from doing something. In such a case you must bring your claim in either the District or Supreme Courts.
Once you have decided which court you need to use, you will need to select the correct registry. Unfortunately, you cannot necessarily bring your claim in the registry that is most convenient to you. You must bring your claim in the registry where:
- The defendant is located; or
- Where the incident or contract giving rise to the claim occurred.
If your claim needs to be started in a registry that is outside Queensland, stop now! This factsheet is only relevant for claims commenced in Queensland.
It is important to be clear about in which court and which registry to start your claim. If you select the wrong court or the wrong registry, your claim may need to be transferred, which could be expensive for you.
Chapter 2, Part 6 of the UCPR has more information about selecting the correct court and registry.
Step 2: Drafting a Statement of Claim
For information on drafting a Form 16 statement of claim, see our Drafting a Statement of Claim - tips and examples factsheet.
Step 3: Filing and service
"Filing" a document means placing a copy of the document on the court file, which is held at the court registry. The contact details of each court registry are available on the Queensland Courts website.
Keep both your claim and your statement of claim together.
You will be required to pay a filing fee at the time of filing your claim, unless you apply for a fee waiver. Current filing fees are contained in the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules (Fees) Regulation 2009, available on the Queensland legislation website.
You can file your claim:
- In person: by taking 1 copy plus an additional copy for each defendant and one copy for you to the registry in person; or
- By post: by sending the required number of copies of your claim, with the filing fee and a reply-paid self-addressed envelope, to the registry to be filed. If you are filing by post, the Court Registry accepts no responsibility for any documents being delayed or lost in the post. We recommend that you file your Claim and Statement of Claim in person.
The registry will stamp and retain one of the copies of your claim. This will be kept on the court file. The registry will also stamp the other copies and return them to you.
You must then serve a copy of the claim on each of the defendants personally - ordinary post is usually insufficient. If your claim is not served properly, you may not be entitled to proceed with the claim.
Different forms of service, and how to properly serve court documents, are dealt with our Serving court documents factsheet. Alternatively, you can read the formal rules about service by checking Chapter 4 of the UCPR.
You must serve your claim as soon as possible - if you wait too long, you may not be entitled to proceed with the claim. See our Time limits - calculating time factsheet for more information. Make sure you keep a copy of the claim for your own future reference.
If you need more information about how to complete a claim and statement of claim, please contact the Self Representation Service.
- Do I have a cause of action? Please see our cause of action factsheet for more information.
- What are the elements of that cause of action?
- In which Court/Tribunal should I commence proceedings?
- In which District should I commence proceedings?
Filing and serving the statement of claim:
- Have I filed both my Claim and Statement of Claim at the appropriate court registry, either in person or by post?
- Note: You will be required to pay a filing at the time of your claim.
- Have I served a copy of the Claim and Statement of Claim on each of the defendants personally?
- Note: this should be done as soon as possible. You must serve your Claim within one year.
The information in this resource is for general information purposes only. If you would like help with a legal problem, you may be eligible for assistance from a LawRight service or clinic.
For more information about the help available, and the process for applying for help, please contact LawRight by:
|Telephone:||07 3846 6317|
|Fax:||07 3846 6311|
|Postal address:||LawRight, PO Box 3631, South Brisbane, Qld 4101|
LawRight does not provide legal advice over the phone.