What happens when your solicitor attends Court in NSW?

When it comes to personal injury claims, it is necessary for proceedings to be commenced in Courts in New South Wales so as to obtain the best outcome for our clients.

However in personal injury claims, Court is nothing like what is seen on TV. There’s no jury and no lawyers pacing back and forth across the Courtroom passionately delivering their case to jury.

What Courts hear Personal Injury claims?

In ascending order, the hierarchy of Courts in NSW is the Local Court, the District Court and the Supreme Court.

The majority of personal injury claims are brought in the District Court of NSW. The District Court is an intermediary Court that has jurisdiction to hear claims valued up to $750,000.

The Supreme Court is the highest Court in NSW, and has the jurisdiction to hear more complex claims. There is no cap on the damages the Supreme Court can award.

It is usually quite difficult to assess how much a claim is worth at the beginning of proceedings and so it is not uncommon for cases to be transferred between these Courts when their value becomes clear.

However for the purposes of case management, the principles of the District and Supreme Court are very similar.

What is case management?

Whether a case is commenced in the Supreme Court or the District Court, all cases are case managed by a Registrar. In simple terms, case management involves a judicial officer (most commonly a Registrar) overlooking the preparation of a claim to ensure that each side is preparing the case efficiently.

The overriding principle which guides solicitors and judicial officers when it comes to case management is found under the Civil Procedure Act (2005) NSW, and more specifically Section 56.

Section 56(1) of the Civil Procedure Act (2005) NSW provides that:

“The overriding purpose of this Act and of rules of court, in their application to civil proceedings, is to facilitate the just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues in the proceedings.”

Sections 56(2) and 56(3) likewise places an obligation on both the Court and the solicitors involved in each case to ensure that they facilitate the just, quick and cheap resolutions of the real issues in proceedings.

This means that solicitors and judicial officers must ensure that each case is prepared in a way they allows the case to be solved fairly, quickly and without incurred unnecessary costs to the client.

Solicitors are also bound by the Court rules contained under the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005.

How does case management work in practice?

In practice, case management involves a judicial officer making orders that need to be followed by both parties as to the future conduct of each claim.

In most cases, solicitors from opposing sides will discuss orders that can be made before a matter is next listed in Court. Once an agreement is made on proposed orders, these are presented to the judicial officer in Court for their approval.

These orders usually provide time frames to both parties to do things such as exchange evidence, submit court documents, have settlement negotiations or even set down dates for a hearing to take place.

Orders that are made by a judicial officer must be made with the view of advancing the just, quick and cheap resolution of matters before it.

Below are some examples of orders that can be made in Court:

“Party A to file and serve [relevant Court document] by [date]”

 “Party A to finalise and serve their expert evidence by [date]”

 “Party B to finalise and serve their expert evidence by [date]”

 “Both parties to engage in settlement discussions by [date]”

Orders must be followed at all times. In the event where orders are not followed, the solicitor must provide the Court with an adequate reasons as to why a delay has occurred.

In more extreme circumstances where one party has caused an unreasonable delay in the preparation of a claim, a Court may order that party to pay the other party’s legal costs incurred as a result of that delay.

What happens when there are problems?

Apart from overseeing the management of each claim, the Courts also have the power to resolve disputes that might arise between parties.

This is done through a series of mechanisms which allow each party to argue their issues and allow a judicial officer to decide which course would best benefit the just, quick and cheap resolution of the claim.

Help is not too far away

Navigating Court processes while obeying all the relevant Court rules and order is complex, and requires significant amount of experience and expertise to navigate successfully.

Have you or a loved one found yourself involved in Court proceedings without the appropriate help? We are here to assist you. For more information and to arrange a free consultation please contact Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800 or alternatively make an online enquiry.

Written by Mark Crollos

Mark Crollos is a solicitor in Julie Mahony’s Practice Group. Mark works on a variety of different compensation matters, with a particular focus on medical negligence claims.