The Litigation Assistance Fund is a charitable trust established by the Law Society of South Australia. It aims to assist plaintiffs to proceed with litigation where they would be otherwise unable to afford to sue. It is available to both individuals and companies.
What type of matters can it assist with?
Assistance is provided for civil matters only. Examples of the types of matters that the Fund can assist with are matters such as inheritance claims, personal injury claims, professional negligence claims and commercial disputes. However the Fund cannot assist with family law matters, including matrimonial or de facto property matters.
Who is eligible for assistance?
Means test — an applicant can have a family income of up to $130,000 gross, in addition to assets such as a house and a car, of “reasonable value”.
Merits test — the merits of the case are considered by a panel of three experienced legal practitioners. The panel takes into account the prospects for success, the amount of damages claimed and the likelihood of recovering the amount claimed.
The Fund can only assist people who are resident in South Australia or whose cause of action arose when they were resident in South Australia and there is a sufficient connection to the state, as per the Rules of the Litigation Assistance Fund.
How do I apply for assistance?
To apply for assistance you must first see a lawyer and complete an Application for Assistance. A fee of $100 (or $250 in urgent cases) must accompany the application, although the fee may be waived in cases of special hardship.
What happens if I win my case?
If your case is successful the Fund receives 15% of the damages awarded or settlement monies received plus reimbursement of the legal costs and disbursements paid by it.
What happens if I lose my case?
If you lose your case you will not have to repay the Fund but will still be responsible for paying the other side's costs.
Are there any other options available for assistance?
In addition to the Litigation Assistance Fund, there is also the Disbursements Only Fund. This Fund pays disbursements such as court filing fees, medical and other expert reports, witness fees, transcript and trial fees. It does not pay solicitor's or barrister's fees.The applicant must enter into a contingency agreement with her or his lawyer in order to be eligible for this form of assistance. This allows the lawyer to charge on a contingency basis. A contingency basis means the lawyer only gets paid if the case is won, but it also provides that they can charge up to double the fees normally charged.
If the case is won the Fund will have to be repaid the monies outlaid for disbursements and an additional amount of between 25% and 100% of the disbursements paid will be levied.