Reading time: 5 minutes

If you have been served with a statement of claim, you need to act promptly. Crucially, if you fail to respond, the court may enter a default judgment against you. Overall, the steps you should take to respond will depend on your circumstances and the type of claim. This article sets out the court processes and steps you should take after being served a statement of claim.

1. File a Defence and Cross-Claim

The clock starts ticking after you are served a statement of claim. You will have 28 days from being served to file your defence. Assuming you dispute the statement of claim, your first steps should be to seek legal advice and to prepare, file and serve your defence.

You should obtain legal advice before preparing your defence. While you may know how to explain your case, there are strict court rules surrounding defence preparation and what should be contained in a cross-claim. Many people who represent themselves can make errors such as:

  • failing to respond to paragraphs, which the court may treat as you admitting liability;
  • submitting evidence together with pleadings (pleadings should only consist of your arguments and defences); and
  • not understanding the various laws which apply to the case.

If you want to dispute and counter the other party’s case, you can submit a cross-claim alongside your defence. Your cross-claim should set out the compensation you are asking for and the details of how you calculated that amount. You will also need to submit this within 28 days.

2. Attend the Directions Hearing

After filing your defence, the matter will be listed for hearing before a registrar or judge for directions to set out the timetable of the matter. This will set out the steps each party must take before the case can be heard and determined by a judge. Generally, this will occur within six weeks of the date of filing your defence.

At the directions hearing the court may also set dates for:

  • the return of any subpoenas;
  • a trial;
  • a review (which enables the court to check the case’s progress); or
  • a second directions hearing.

When a statement of claim is filed in the District Court, the court allocates a pre-trial conference date. This is usually held two months after the claim has been filed. At this conference, the court makes all directions it considers appropriate to ensure the case will be ready for the status conference. The court may or may not set a trial date and/or order the parties to mediate by a certain date.

A status conference allows the judge to set the trial date and obtain updated information of the parties.

3. Attend the Post-Directions Hearing

The events after the first directions hearing will vary with each case. There may be multiple general directions hearings between the first direction hearing and the review hearing (or the pre-trial conference and status conference if the matter is heard in the District Court).

If you have not already submitted your cross-claim with your defence, then preparing this may be your next step. 

Other helpful actions you can take, which may be ordered by the court, include:

  • filing and serving amended pleadings: if you have been granted extra time to amend or flesh out your defence or cross-claim, then this may be your first priority after the directions hearing;
  • requesting and responding to requests for further and better particulars: pleadings must give sufficient information to enable each party to respond to the allegation or understand the defence. Parties may exchange responses and requests for information voluntarily or by court order;
  • preparing evidence: the court may make orders specifying when you and the other party must serve each other evidence. This may be affidavit (written statement) evidence or evidence from an expert witness. Generally, each party must provide copies of their evidence to every other party at least four weeks before the review date; and
  • settlement negotiations: you and the other party will most likely negotiate in the background to try and reach a settlement. A settlement can be reached at any stage of the proceedings. The court may also order the parties to attend either a settlement conference or mediation by a certain date.

4. Attend Further Directions, Call Over or Pre-Trial Review

The court will also set matters down for further directions, call over or pre-trial reviews. The purpose of these is to ensure the parties have complied with court directions and are ready for trial. If you fail to comply, the court may make orders to:

  • dismiss the proceedings;
  • refuse to accept a defence; or
  • fine the party causing the delays.

If a further directions hearing or call over has been set down, you can expect this to occur within 28 days of the first directions hearing.

In the District Court, you will attend a status conference around 8 to 11 months after the date the statement of claim was filed. You may be ordered to attempt alternate dispute resolution methods such as mediation or a settlement conference.

5. Attend the Final hearing

After receiving a statement of claim, you can expect that most matters will reach a final hearing within:

  • 9 to 12 months in the Local Court; and
  • 12 to 18 months in the District Court.

Prior to this hearing, parties will be required to submit to the court:

  • case summaries;
  • statements of agreed facts and issues; and
  • final submissions.

Key Takeaways

If you are served with a statement of claim, you should not expect the matter to be finalised quickly. You should obtain legal advice before you file your defence and any cross-claim.

After filing your defence, you can expect the court to make various orders to ensure the matter is prepared for the hearing. However, you should always attempt to settle the matter outside of court. If you have received a statement of claim and require legal advice, get in touch with LegalVision’s litigation lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards