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The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) provides a flexible, do-it-yourself, low-cost way to resolve a motor vehicle property damage dispute up to $25,000.
Lawyers are not allowed to participate unless both sides agree or unless the tribunal agrees to you being represented.
The tribunal may agree if:
You should get legal advice about whether you should get legal representation. You must complete and lodge an Application for leave to be represented (Form 56) if you want to be legally represented. This form can be downloaded from the QCAT website www.qcat.qld.gov.au. The form includes instructions for completing.
If you are legally represented, the tribunal makes orders about legal costs at the end of the hearing. Each person usually pays their own legal costs, but in some circumstances where the tribunal considers it is appropriate, the tribunal can order that one person contribute to the other person’s legal costs.
The person who makes the claim is called the ‘claimant’, the other person is called ‘the respondent’.
Motor vehicle property damage disputes before the tribunal are decided by adjudicators who are lawyers.
You prepare your own case and pay a fee to lodge your claim. The fee depends on the amount of your claim. In special circumstances the tribunal may approve an application to waive the fees.
It is possible you may be both a claimant and a respondent. For example, if someone makes a claim against you, but your car is also damaged and you believe they are wholly or partly responsible for it, you can also lodge a counter application against them. It is best to get advice from a lawyer before doing this.
To start a claim in the QCAT complete an Application for minor civil dispute – consumer dispute (Form 1) (see Sample documents and forms).
Application for minor civil dispute – consumer dispute forms are available from the QCAT, your local courthouse or the QCAT website. Read the information at the beginning of these forms and follow all the instructions so you complete your claim accurately.
On your application form, in the space where you give full particulars of your claim, remember to include:
Make two copies of everything. Photocopies are acceptable, but you must sign the form before you copy it. Submit the original and two copies of your claim to the QCAT registry along with the filing fee. You will be given back two stamped copies. One is for serving on the respondent to notify them of the claim and the other is for your records. You can file your documents by posting them to the registry, but you must enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope. If you win, the tribunal may direct the other person to pay back your filing fee.
The tribunal will then send you a Notice of mediation, which will include the date, time and location you and the respondent need to attend mediation.
Arrange to have one of the stamped copies of the Application for minor civil dispute – consumer dispute forms delivered to the person or business you are claiming against as soon as possible. This should be delivered to the respondent in person or can be delivered to a business in person or by post. This is called ‘serving’ the documents.
You can do this yourself, but it is often better to pay a private process server (someone who does this for a living) or enforcement officer from the magistrates court to do it for you. You can find a process server by asking the magistrates court registry or looking in the Yellow Pages or other business directory.
The QCAT published a Tribunal Practice Direction number 2009/08 (updated November 2013) about service of documents in person. Visit the QCAT website to download an up-to-date copy of the directions for service. You should get legal advice if you intend to serve the documents on the respondent yourself.
Once the documents have been served on the respondent, you need to fill in an Affidavit of service (Form 9), which is available on the QCAT website. See the sample completed form in Sample documents and forms.
Once your application and forms have been received the QCAT will review the information you provided. The tribunal will then contact you about the next step in settling your dispute. This will usually involve you and the respondent attending mediation either in person, or via phone or videoconference.
The aim of mediation is to find a solution to the dispute without having to hold a hearing.
Disputes up to $3000 will be listed for hearing and no mediation will occur.
You need to bring every document, invoice, receipt, quotation or other piece of evidence you are relying on and give them to the mediator at the mediation. Make sure you are organised and have evidence to support your argument’s main points.
If you’re attending mediation via phone or videoconference, a tribunal staff member will contact you either the day before or on the day of the mediation to explain the process to you.
If you’re attending the mediation in person, you should:
The mediation may be conducted by a tribunal staff member, an adjudicator, principal registrar or an independent mediator.
The mediator will introduce themself and ask the parties attending to introduce themselves. Generally the mediation is held in private and the mediation length will depend on the matter’s complexity.
When presenting your argument, you should be clear and to the point. Do not interrupt the other party or the tribunal representative. If you do not behave appropriately, you may be removed from the mediation or punished for contempt.
The discussions held during the mediation cannot be used or referred to at any further hearing unless both people agree.
If the parties reach an agreement the mediator may record the agreement’s terms in writing and make the orders necessary to give effect to the agreement. An order is a decision made by the court that requires someone to do something (for example, it may require a person to pay damages). Each party will then sign the mediation agreement and receive a copy.
Either party may ask the tribunal to make the agreement into an order.
If you cannot reach an agreement, the mediator will work with you to set out what issues are still in dispute and what issues have been resolved. They will then give this information to the tribunal. The tribunal will then set a date for the hearing.
You do not need to prepare a formal response if someone files a claim against you for motor vehicle property damage.
If your own car was also damaged in the accident, you may believe the applicant is wholly or partly responsible for the accident. In this case, you can lodge a counter application against the applicant. You can download the Minor civil dispute – counter application (Form 8) from the QCAT website. The form contains instructions for completing. A counterclaim means you are going to claim damages from the other person to recover the costs of repairs to your vehicle or other property as a result of the accident.
You must lodge the counter application in the registry where the application was lodged. The counter claim must be provided to all parties to the proceedings no later then seven days after filing.
The tribunal will arrange for your counter application to be mediated at the same time as the application. It is best to get advice from a lawyer before doing this.