Your reputation is important, and when another individual or entity makes a claim that damages your reputation, you could suffer important consequences that have a long-term impact on your life. Defamation lawyer can prove to be valuable in a variety of cases; however, it is important to retain legal assistance as soon as possible after the event.
What Does Defamation Mean?
Defamation refers to the process of damaging someone’s reputation via claims or statements. However, simply saying or writing something hurtful or rude does not necessarily constitute defamation. In order to qualify as one of the two types of defamation (slander or libel), the information must follow certain criteria.
First, the statement must be demonstrably false. If one person claims that another person robbed a bank, that statement cannot be considered defamatory if the person in question did in fact rob a bank. However, if the person never robbed a bank, the claim that they are a thief could be damaging to their reputation and impact future opportunities, such as their ability to be hired for certain jobs. This may qualify for defamation, because the information that harmed their reputation was false.
The statement may be directly defamatory (damaging to reputation) but not every false statement constitutes substantial harm to an individual. It is entirely possible to falsely state that an individual drives a Mercedes when in fact they drive a Ford. This statement is false, but it causes no damage to the person’s reputation, and so it cannot result in legal action.
The statement must be said to, or published by, a third party. One person cannot defame another person during a direct confrontation that no other people learn about. In order for a defamation case to arise, the false and injurious information must be disseminated to the public, resulting in the potential risk to the affected individual’s reputation. For example, someone stating a false and damaging piece of information during an interview, or in a published work, would be at risk of a defamation suit.
The statement must be malicious or negligent. People sometimes make factual mistakes without malicious intent. However, defamation cases rely on the person sharing the information doing so with an intent to harm, or without proper regard for how the information they share may impact the relevant party. If either of these elements can be argued, a defamation case may result.
Finally, the person to whom the statement refers must have suffered damage or harm that directly resulted from the statement. The purpose of a defamation lawsuit is to recover damages compensating an individual for the losses they have suffered as a result of the false statement. If no harm has come to them due to the allegedly defamatory information, they do not have a case. Harm can be defined in several ways such as the direct loss of income from losing a job or failing to receive a promotion or opportunity, or the cost of medical bills for therapy to cope with the public backlash against them.
Types Of Defamation Cases A Defamation Lawyer Can Help With
There are a variety of types of defamation; a skilled defamation attorney can assist you regardless of the kind of case you may have. Slander is defamation that occurs as a spoken statement; it is not written down. Slander can be the basis of a case, but it can be more difficult to prove damages, since the harm is not permanently committed to a documented form. The defending party may argue that because the slanderous statement has already occurred, its effect will not continue into the future and so no further harm is being done.
Libel is defamation that occurs through the publication of written media. It may be considered easier to navigate a defamation lawsuit that centers around libel because the information is permanently published in a physical form. It may take the shape of cartoons, general writings/interviews, newspaper publications, information published on review sites or claims made on social media, among a variety of other options.
A defamation case is still possible in instances where information has been deleted. Your legal professional may attempt to measure how much of a reach the initial statement achieved through metrics including average page views, number of “likes” and retweets.
What Defamation Laywer Do During A Case
Defamation attorneys are responsible for more than working to prove that you were defamed, though that is part of their job. They will also help you navigate the litigation or settlement process. The phases of a case are:
The purpose of the discovery phase is to assemble and build the evidence for the case. During this time, the attorney will examine as much information as possible to determine whether the case is likely to succeed and how the arguments for your case should be structured. Discovery includes exchanging information between the teams of both the plaintiff and defendant through interrogatories and depositions (obtaining details from witnesses). You can assist your attorney during this time by furnishing as much evidence as possible. The attorney will also reach out on their own as necessary to secure the information required.
2. Determining Damages
If an attorney concludes that you do have a potential defamation case, they will move on to a calculation of the harm that has come to your reputation. Attorneys look at a variety of factors, such as the impact of the statement on your future career prospects, as well as any direct losses following the event. The cases with the highest success rates are those where the defamed party can clearly demonstrate that they have lost tangible assets as a result of the statement, e.g., losing their job, an employer directly stating that they will not get promoted because of what the employer heard in the defamatory statement and other similar events.
3. Attempting To Settle
Most attorneys will advise clients to attempt to settle when possible, receiving compensation for the defamation privately. This outcome avoids the courtroom which can reduce fees and bring a swift resolution to the case. However, both the defamed party and the defendant must agree to a settlement; if either party does not consent, the case must proceed to litigation. Settlement often occurs in arbitration, when an impartial third party oversees the discussion between the two sides. However, the defendant may simply offer a settlement outside of arbitration as well.
4. Going To Trial
If one or more parties refuse to settle outside of court, the attorney will litigate the case in the courtroom. This includes the presentation of evidence, witness testimony and informing the jury. Be sure to select a defamation attorney who has experience in court trials, not just settlements. A trial may be over quickly depending on the volume and quality of evidence available, or it may last for an extended period. Your attorney will help you have a good idea of the timeline to expect and keep you up to date on how the case is evolving.
Potential Defenses To Defamation To Contend With
A skilled attorney is vital in a defamation case, because these cases tend to be very information-heavy. The defendant can have multiple challenging issues that the attorney will need to successfully address.
The defendant’s counsel may attempt to establish that the allegedly defamatory statement is factual. This is more feasible in some instances than others, but it directly attacks the viability of a defamation claim; proving the statement to be true immediately allows the defendant to succeed.
The defense may also try to prove that the statement was an opinion. Certain types of expression, such as comedy and caricatures, are understood not to be an accurate reflection of the people and circumstances they depict. Thus, the information contained within should not be construed as truth that could harm a person’s reputation.
Proving that no substantial harm resulted from the statement is another possibility. The objective of a defamation suit is to recover damages. If the opposing party can demonstrate that no true harm was done to the allegedly defamed individual, they may not be eligible to seek defamatory damages in court. This is why cases are easier to navigate when the defamed person has experienced a tangible loss directly tied to the statement, such as a job loss.
The defending attorney may also try proving that the plaintiff consented to the statement. For example, in the context of an interview, it is understood by all the participating parties that the person being interviewed is doing so of their own free will, and that what they say is meant to be shared with others. Thus, information divulged in this manner has been intentionally shared and cannot later be claimed to be maliciously disseminated.
Trust The Professionals To Help You Navigate Defamation
Defamation can have a long-lasting impact on your life, and you do not have to accept the negative consequences of the actions of others. If you believe that you have been defamed, or if you have questions about filing a lawsuit or other aspects of the process, the attorneys at KPPB LAW would be happy to help. Contact our office to schedule a consultation or to ask any questions that you may have.