skip to content
Law Handbook banner image

Civil Claims

As of 1 August 2016 the monetary limit for new minor civil claims reduced from $25 000 to $12 000.

Proceedings commenced before 1 August 2016 (even if they are over $12 000) will continue as they are.

Civil claims can cover a wide range of matters. The most common types of civil claims are claims for debts (such as money owing on loans or under contracts) or claims for damages (such as for money claimed for repairing a car or for personal injuries following a road accident).

Some types of civil claims, such as residential tenancies, unfair dismissals, bankruptcy, copyright and planning and development, are dealt with by special courts or tribunals . This chapter does not deal with the procedure in these special courts and tribunals.

In this chapter, unless otherwise stated, the procedure for making a claim is that which applies in the Magistrates Court Civil (Minor Claims) Division. For additional information about minor civil claims, see DEBT and ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES, Motor vehicle accidents.

In which court is a civil claim started?

The amount of money or damages being claimed usually determines the Court in which a claim should be started. Under the the monetary limits for the types of claims which courts can deal with are [Magistrates Court Act 1991 ss 3 and 8]:

  • Up to $12 000 Magistrates Court Civil (Minor Claims) Division (as of 1 August 2016)
  • $12 001 - $100 000 Magistrates Court Civil (General Claims) Division (as of 1 August 2016)
  • Over $100 000 District Court Civil Division.

Claims can also be made in the Supreme Court, but there are cost penalties under the Supreme Court Civil Rules 2006 [r 263] which can apply if the amount of the judgment awarded by the Supreme Court falls below a certain amount. The amount depends on the type of claim (for claims arising from motor vehicle accidents, at least $150 000 must be awarded to avoid costs penalties; for defamation claims, $25 000 must be awarded; and for other claims, $75 000). There are also penalties if the amount awarded is less than an offer of settlement filed with the court and not accepted [see r 188].

See also LEGAL SYSTEM, State Courts

The procedures that are followed in the District Court and the Supreme Court are very nearly the same as each other. Whilst there are many similarities with the procedural steps in all of the Courts, generally the procedures have been simplified in the Magistrates Court.

Civil Claims  :  Last Revised: Mon Aug 1st 2016
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.