Posted on 04 Jul. 2014
You've just been served with legal documents, what next?
By Slater and Gordon
Someone has just handed you a document and tells you that you have been served with a Complaint, Writ, or Statement of Claim (also known as the Originating Process). What does this all mean, and what if you do nothing?
Those legal documents are a means for commencing Court proceedings against a party (you, for instance). That document sets out the claim the issuing party (known as the plaintiff) has against another party (known as the defendant), as well as the facts and circumstances which give rise to that claim. Claims can be as simple as owing someone money, or as complex as copyright infringement.
We recommend that you seek legal advice after you’ve been served so that you understand what the claim is about, what the strengths and weaknesses of the claim are, and whether you have a counterclaim against the plaintiff. All of these factors will help you to decide what action you should take.
I want to dispute the claim
From the moment that you have been served with legal documents, the litigation process begins and there are a number of procedures that must take place within a certain timeframe.
- You need to file a defence with the relevant Court (within 3-4 weeks, depending on the Court)
- You also need to serve a copy of the defence on the plaintiff at the same time
- You should engage a lawyer to prepare the defence
Preparing your own legal defence can be costly and time-consuming if the documents do not comply with court rules or contain necessary information.
What if I do nothing?
If you do nothing after being served, and the deadline for you to prepare a defence has expired, the plaintiff may apply to the court to obtain default judgment against you without any further notice to you.
What this means is that the Court may automatically grant the plaintiff the relief that it seeks from you without hearing your side of the story. For example, if the plaintiff claims that you owe it $1,000, and if you do not file a defence, the Court can make an order that you pay the plaintiff $1,000.
Once the plaintiff has an order against you, the plaintiff may take steps to enforce that order against you such as obtaining a warrant to seize and sell your assets to pay the debt.
Taking no action can result in costly and undesirable consequences.
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