What to do if you are being sued
How will I know if I am being sued?
If someone is suing you, you will be served personally with some official-looking paperwork. This could be a Claim accompanied by a Statement of Claim that sets out the circumstances of why you are being sued. Or, you could be served with an Application if the proceedings are started in QCAT, which is the Queensland Civil and Administrate Appeals Tribunal.
What should I do if I am served with documents?
The first thing to do is not to panic. Generally it is not a surprise to people when they are served with court documents, as the person filing the claim, known as the Plaintiff, (or the Applicant if proceedings are started in QCAT) should have made a demand for payment of the money they say you owe them.
The second thing you should do is make a note of the date, time and place you were served with the documents.
Then, you should make an appointment to see your lawyer to get some advice about your options. Remember to take the documents and all other relevant paperwork with you so that a proper assessment of your position can be made.
What if I don’t owe the money?
If you dispute the debt, or the amount claimed, then you will have to file a Notice of Intention to Defend andDefence or a Response depending on how the Proceedings were started. This is your opportunity to answer the case the Plaintiff has set out in their documents. You are referred to as the Defendant or the Respondent, again depending on where the proceedings are started.
If the parties are not able to resolve the matter beforehand, there will be a trial before a Magistrate or Judge (in the case of a Court) or a Member (in the case of QCAT). There are rarely juries in these types of proceedings. Almost all litigation of this type settles before a trial.
The Court or Tribunal will make a decision, based on the material before it, and make an Order for some or all of the money to be repaid, or dismiss the proceedings if the Plaintiff has not been able to prove that you owe the money to them.
What if I owe the money but I can’t pay?
You should still see your lawyer. We are trained in negotiation and we may be able to come to an agreement with the Plaintiff so that you can pay off the debt, and perhaps even a reduction in the amount owed.
What will happen if I ignore it?
This is never a good idea! If you ignore the proceedings, the matter will be heard in your absence and there will likely be a Default Judgment entered in your absence which means that the Plaintiff has won their case because you did not defend it. This allows the Plaintiff to ask the Court to make Orders to assist them to recover the money, even an order to sell your house.
It is important that you always respond to any court documents as the consequences of burying your head in the sand can be grave.
If you have further questions about how to respond to court proceedings or have been served with a court application, please contact our office on (07) 3343 9522 or (07) 5446 1745 or through our contact us service here.