Defamation is a legal issue describing an event in which an individual knowingly makes a false statement, publishes that statement publicly and, in so doing, harms another party (typically the one addressed by the false statement) in the process. Defamation occurs in multiple forms, from false statements that are written, to those that are only spoken verbally. No matter the type, if you are considering hiring an attorney to represent your rights in a defamation case, it is important that you choose wisely. Here are some of the most important considerations to evaluate a potential defamation lawyer before engaging their services.
Experience With Both Slander And Libel
When it comes to selecting the right attorney for your defamation case, you should be sure to choose a firm that has experience with both slander and libel cases. Both of these terms refer to defamation; however, they are each more specific in nature. Working with an attorney who has experience in both areas can contribute a more comprehensive and thorough knowledge of both how to proceed with your case and how to anticipate potential challenges from the opposing side.
Libel is defamation that is expressed in written form. If one entity or individual publishes damaging content about someone while knowing that such information is false, they may be guilty of libel. Some famous past examples of libel cases include actress Cameron Diaz’s successful suit against the UK newspaper, The Sun, after it published an article claiming that she was having an affair with a married man.
As a result of the harm to her reputation, she was able to successfully recover monetary damages in this case. Actress Kate Hudson was similarly successful against The National Enquirer, which had published that she had an eating disorder. However, libel is not limited only to newspapers and does not need to be a physical publication in order to qualify as libel; any text-based material is a possible source, including social media.
Similarly to libel, slander is also defamation except that it is expressed verbally, in spoken words. However, the same claims and allegations remain problematic; most commonly, slander is expressed in the form of rumors that impede an individual’s future opportunities. For example, an employee spreading a rumor that a coworker is stealing office equipment could harm the affected individual’s future employment or promotion prospects. Allegations of sexual harassment that did not occur are common focal points for slander cases.
It is important that you select an attorney who has experience with both libel and slander lawsuits when considering your own defamation case. This broad experience will provide a more comprehensive and thorough approach that can benefit you and potentially achieve a better outcome.
Representing Both Plaintiffs And Defendants In Defamation Cases
In general, a breadth of knowledge is valuable in the legal field, and defamation cases are no exception. Whether you are the plaintiff (someone suing for defamation) or the defendant (someone being sued) in your case, working with an attorney who has represented both is vital. Despite whether you are the defendant or the plaintiff, having an attorney with experience in representing both sides will be most beneficial to your successful outcome. An attorney with this exposure will be better prepared to anticipate areas of concern.
If an attorney has only served defendants and never plaintiffs, for example, they may be unprepared to address certain arguments that arise or cannot predict the approach that the plaintiff’s counsel may use. Having advocated for both a plaintiff and defendant, however, means they will have experience in staying ahead of the opposing counsel. This will also equip them with broad knowledge of the strongest points to be made in your favor.
Similarity Of Nature and Content Within The Lawsuit
Defamation is a broad umbrella under which many types of cases can fall. Libel and slander can each happen in a variety of situations, and the attorney you choose for your case should have not only the experience, but also a demonstrated ability to address both types of defamation. An attorney who has only worked on slander in the workplace may be excellent at their work, but they may also be unsuited to present a case about international social media libel.
When considering which firm to choose, be sure to ask if the attorneys have experience in cases similar to yours. This includes not only the relative location or type of defamation but also whether their experience includes cases with the same or similar consequences as yours. For some, the consequences of defamation can hinder their future opportunities due to damage to their reputation.
For others, the slander or libel may have resulted directly in their termination of employment, being barred from an organization or other consequences. While these are all potential outcomes, they are vastly different in terms of how the case is handled and how damages are pursued. Your ideal attorney should have navigated cases with a similar structure to yours in the past.
References And Sample Cases
An attorney who has had success in the field of defamation law should be able to provide examples of previous clients who have worked with them. Although much of what an attorney works on is protected by client confidentiality agreements, legal professionals can often provide general information from fully resolved cases as examples of their previous work. In the absence of specific cases due to confidentiality reasons, an attorney should at least be able to walk you through the process and outcomes of previous cases using more general, non-identifying information.
If the defamation lawyer you are considering is unwilling to share evidence of past successes, this may be a cause for concern. Another viable option is for an attorney to identify significant and well-known cases that are similar to yours and explain how your suit may take the same course, as well as the potential strategies that may be used. A trustworthy legal professional should be able to provide some insight into how they would proceed with your case if you elect to work with them.
Years Of Experience
One of the most important aspects to consider when evaluating potential defamation attorneys is how long they have worked in the field. While a new attorney may not necessarily be a bad choice, an attorney with years of experience will have encountered a greater variety of cases and circumstances. Specific and highly focused knowledge is essential for success, but it should be balanced with years of broad experience acquired through a diverse collective of cases. This ensures that your attorney is able to appropriately anticipate issues before they arise and remain adaptable throughout the case.
Judge And Jury Vs. Settlements Only
Defamation cases can be resolved in more than one way; they can settle outside of court, before the matter is heard by a judge. In this case, the two parties will reach a settlement agreement, typically to compensate the plaintiff in some amount of damages rather than paying for and spending the time on the court process.
Settlements can more quickly grant the monetary compensation that is deserved, compared to the lengthy legal process of multiple court dates. Although settlements can be a powerful tool to resolve a defamation lawsuit quickly and effectively, it is important to choose an attorney who has experience with both securing settlements as well as presenting cases to a judge and jury.
If the attorney has no experience in the courtroom and your case goes to court because a party is unwilling to settle, you may find yourself in need of a different expert later on. Some parties are eager to settle in order to resolve the dispute quickly and with minimal expenses, avoiding the fees and expenses of the court. Others will never agree to settle and will force the case into the courtroom. It is unwise to count on an attorney who only has experience with settlements.
Even if you are optimistic about a settlement in your own case, you should be ready to proceed in court with your legal counsel if the defendant refuses to settle. An attorney who, in addition to negotiation skills, also has trial experience will not leave you unprepared for your day in court.
Trust The Defamation Attorneys At KPPB LAW
Defamation can be a damaging occurrence, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant. Plaintiffs who have experienced slander or libel could be faced with long-term consequences that impact their ability to work and seek future important opportunities due to their damaged reputation.
Defendants may be faced with a similarly damaged reputation, even if they allege that their slander or libel was unintentional. In both cases, it is important that the affected party seek the experience of a defamation attorney with years of experience in the field, both with slander and libel and with both settlement and in-court proceedings.
Whether you have been accused of defamation or would like to bring a suit for defamation made against you for slander or libel, be sure to choose an attorney with a track record of success in your specific type of case. The attorneys with KPPB LAW would be happy to help you explore your options and understand what your potential next steps may be. Contact our office to schedule a consultation to discuss the important factors in your situation to determine what type of case you may have and what to do next.