Communities and Justice

Starting or responding to a civil claim

Starting or responding to a civil claim

Civil claims proceedings can be started for many reasons including contractual disputes, claims for personal injuries as well as claims to recover money or debts owed by the other party.

Before starting court proceedings

Before starting any court proceedings you should:

If you cannot find another option to resolve your matter, you need to know which court is the right place to start a claim, which forms to use and the fees that apply.

For more information see:

If you represent yourself, do some legal research before starting court proceedings to understand the laws and rules that apply to civil matters.


Before responding to civil court proceedings

Before responding to any notification of court proceedings you should consider:

  • getting  legal advice
  • finding out if your matter is suited to one of the alternatives to court

Starting a civil claim

You can start a civil claim in various ways depending on the type of claim and whether you are taking the matter to a court or tribunal. Each court or tribunal uses particular forms, rules and procedures.

Local and District Courts

In the local and district courts, you can start civil proceedings by filing a form called a Statement of Claim. There is a fee for filing this form. To see the form and the fees that apply, go to Civil court forms and fees.

You need to file your claim in the court where the case will be heard. So if you are commencing the claim in the local court, you can file the documents at any local court office. The local court deals with claims of up to $100,000.

If you are commencing the claim in the district court, you can file the documents at any district court office. The district court deals with general claims of up to $750,000. It also deal with motor accident claims and work injury claims for unlimited amounts.

The court location where you file the claim becomes the court where the case will be conducted, unless there is an agreement between the parties or a judicial officer changes the venue to another location.

Supreme Court

The supreme court deals with claims above $750,000. If you wish to begin proceedings in the supreme court, you must prepare a summons or statement of claim in accordance with the rules of court. 

A summons notifies someone that they are legally obliged to attend court.

This summons or statement of claim must be formally filed at the court and the prescribed fee must be paid. For more information about the court's procedures, filing fees and time constraints, see the Supreme Court website.

Responding to a Statement of Claim or Summons

Received a Statement of Claim?

If you have received a Statement of Claim in civil proceedings, you need to decide whether you want to admit to the claim or defend the claim. You should consider getting legal advice about any civil proceedings when you receive the Statement of Claim.

In civil proceedings, you have 28 days from the date you are served with the Statement of Claim to respond to the claim. If you do not respond in the time allowed, a judgment could be entered against you.

If you have received a local court statement of claim for a small claims debt of $20,000 or less, you can get help with what to do next from the LawAccess NSW website.

If you want to defend the claim you will need to file a defence. If you believe someone else is responsible for the claim, you may also want to consider filing a cross-claim (there are also fees to be paid for filing a cross-claim).

You should consider getting legal advice about the contents of a defence or a cross-claim.

See: Where to get legal advice and information.

Served with a Summons?

If you have been served with a Summons, you may wish to  seek legal advice.

When you have received a Summons, it is important that you or your legal representative:

  • file an appearance document before you can take any step in proceedings, including appearing in court
  • attend court on the day of hearing.

If either you or your lawyer fails to attend the hearing date on the Summons, the court may make orders against you in your absence, including awarding costs to the plaintiff of bringing these proceedings. 

Last updated:

03 Dec 2023

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