ContentJust Search pageLJF site navigationLeft navigation links
LJF Logo
Publications sectionJustice Awards sectionResearch sectionGrants sectionPlain language law sectionNetworks section
Just Search
 
Research Report: Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia
cover image

Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia  ( 2012 )  Cite this report

4. Nature of legal problems



Print chapter

Other side


For each of the 19 388 problems, respondents were asked who the problem (or dispute) was with. Respondents provided information on the other side for 19 123 of these 19 388 problems. Table 4.1 shows that, as would be expected, a wide variety of people and organisations were nominated by respondents as the other side, including both personal contacts, such as family, relatives, friends and neighbours, and an array of professionals, service providers, government organisations and non-government organisations. In 3.7 per cent of problems, respondents reported that there was no other side, as they were not actually in dispute with anyone, or the problem was their own fault. In another 8.2 per cent of problems, the person responsible had not been identified. In a further 9.2 per cent of problems, while the identity of the other side had been established, the other side was a stranger to the respondent.

Table 4.1: Other side in legal problems, Australia

Other sideN%
Legal1841.0
Government
Local government9745.1
Police4352.3
Government agency1 0305.4
Health or welfare5012.6
Financial
Bank/building society/credit union6753.5
Insurance company/broker4452.3
Other financial2941.5
Business
Manufacturer/retailer1 0795.6
Telecommunications1 6228.5
Utilities5052.6
Other business7674.0
Employment
Employer/boss/supervisor1 3076.8
Other employment3101.6
Education4222.2
Housing
Neighbour1 5207.9
Landlord or landlord’s agent3271.7
Other housing3541.9
Family/friend
Spouse/partner or ex1 0885.7
Other relative5953.1
Friend/acquaintance4382.3
None/stranger
No other side or no dispute7133.7
Stranger (identity known)1 7599.2
Unidentified person1 5718.2
Othera2051.1
All problems19 123100.0

a E.g. other sides that were unclearly defined by the respondent and other sides not classified elsewhere.
Note: N=19 123 problems. Data were missing for 265 problems.


Table 4.2 breaks down the other side by legal problem group. As shown, the other side nominated by respondents fits neatly with the type of problem. For example, 68.2 per cent of problems where the other side was a legal professional fell within the consumer problem group and predominantly related to problems with consumer services from a lawyer.

Table 4.2: Other side in legal problems by problem group, Australia


a E.g. other sides that were unclearly defined by the respondent and other sides not classified elsewhere.
Note: N=19 123 problems. Data were missing for 265 problems.

When the other side was local government, the problem usually fell within the government problem group (90.4%) and related to issues such as home building works, or local amenities or services. Government departments or agencies were also predominantly nominated as the other side for government problems (66.1%), including problems concerning government payments, taxation, fines, citizenship, residency and immigration, and for family problems (10.4%). The problems where the police were nominated as the other side were dominated by rights problems (50.6%), which typically related to unfair treatment by police. However, the police were also the other side for government problems (24.9%) such as fines, and for crime problems (22.8%) such as being charged, arrested or questioned in relation to criminal matters.

The majority of legal problems where the other side was a health or welfare provider fell within the health problem group (84.3%) and most commonly involved clinical negligence issues.

When the other side was a financial or business-related professional or organisation, the problems tended to be consumer issues (e.g. problems with consumer contracts, services or faulty goods), credit/debt issues (e.g. problems with loans, credit refusal and creditors’ actions) or money issues (e.g. problems with business or investment).

In about two-thirds of cases, employers, bosses or supervisors tended to be the other side for matters such as work-related discrimination, harassment, victimisation and problematic employment conditions. They were also the other side for some personal injury problems (21.4%), particularly work-related injury. In addition, employment-related people and agencies, such as work colleagues, were often the other side for employment problems (61.6%) and were sometimes linked to money problems (15.3%), such as issues related to being a business owner.

Educational institutions, staff and students tended to be nominated as the other side for rights problems (85.9%), which most commonly concerned student bullying/harassment and unfair exclusion from education.

The majority of problems where the other side was a neighbour or landlord fell within the housing problem group (85.6–90.0%).

Where the other side was a partner or ex-partner, the majority of legal problems fell within the family problem group (74.3%) and related to divorce or separation, division of assets, and child-related issues, such as child support, custody and contact. Some problems involving partners or ex-partners were crime problems (16.3%), such as domestic and non-domestic assault. Problems where the other side was another family member or relative included money problems (37.3%), such as wills/estates, power of attorney, loan and money repayment issues; crime problems (20.0%); and family problems (24.3%), such as child/grandchild issues. Problems where the other side was a friend or an acquaintance included crime (41.8%), credit/debt (16.3%), rights (9.8%), personal injury (9.1%) and money (8.9%) problems.

Understandably, most of the problems where there was no other side, or where the other side was a stranger or an unidentified person, tended to be accidents problems (i.e. injury-free motor vehicle accidents), crime problems or personal injury problems (e.g. motor vehicle injuries or work-related injuries).

  


CLOSE
Coumarelos, C, Macourt, D, People, J, MacDonald, HM, Wei, Z, Iriana, R & Ramsey, S 2012, Legal Australia-Wide Survey: legal need in Australia, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney