When Do I Need a Defamation Lawyer?
Defamation is a false statement made about you that causes injury and results in damages. It may be a written statement, in the case of libel, or a spoken statement known as slander. If this false statement is made to a third party and causes you harm, you may need a defamation lawyer.
Defamation cases can be complicated, and you may be unsure whether your situation applies or if you can sue. You must distinguish between defamation and opinion, for instance. If you are a public figure, there is a higher burden of proof in these cases. And, you must be able to show that an individual or group intentionally slandered or libeled you or did so out of negligence, causing actual damages.
With all these complicating factors, it is essential to talk to an experienced lawyer before trying to take any steps to recover damages. They can clarify the situation and help you decide what to do next.
What Will a Defamation Lawyer Do to Help Me?
If you have found a statement published or spoken about you that is not true, you may be prepared to take legal action. It is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer first.
A defamation lawyer with experience handling these cases can help you in several ways:
- Evaluate your case.
Reputable lawyers and firms with adequate resources offer free initial consultations. With their expertise in defamation and related laws, they can clarify your situation and if it really is defamation.
- Determine if a lawsuit is the right step to take.
These lawyers have extensive experience working on defamation cases. They understand all the intricacies involved and can help you decide if filing a lawsuit and suing those who made the statement makes sense.
- Estimate damages.
The right lawyer can look at your case and provide a reasonable estimate of damages you may be able to recover if you sue. There are damages you may not have considered but that an experienced lawyer will see.
- Negotiate a settlement.
Lawyers handling all types of personal injury cases have experience negotiating settlements. This is often the preferred way to get compensation for the harm caused, but it can be difficult to do without expert legal representation.
- Litigate on your behalf.
Sometimes these cases have to go to trial for successful recovery of damages. The right lawyer will have experience negotiating settlements and litigating to prove defamation in front of a jury.
How Does a Defamation Lawyer Prove Negligence?
In some ways, a defamation case is similar to other personal injury cases. The plaintiff must show that the defendant behaved in an unreasonable way to cause harm and damages. Defamation is a little bit different. To prove negligence or intentional harm in the case of libel or slander, your lawyer must prove:
- The defendant published a statement about the plaintiff. Published here is not restricted to the traditional sense of putting something in print. It means that the defendant communicated a statement about you to a third party. This could include a printed statement in a paper or magazine, an online statement in a social media post or blog, or something they said.
- The statement is provably false. People are free to state opinions as protected by the First Amendment. What someone cannot do is publish a statement about you that can be proven false. This is the difference between defamation and an opinion: an opinion is not provable.
- The statement harmed your reputation. A statement published that caused you no harm, no matter how false, is not defamation. Your lawyer must show that it caused actual damage to your reputation, for instance, if you lose business because of the statement or get fired.
- The defendant made the statement negligently or intentionally. Your lawyer will show that the defendant behaved in an unreasonable way in publishing the false statement. Or, they will prove the defendant did it to cause harm intentionally.
- The defendant had no privilege. Some people are exempt from being sued for defamation, including witnesses providing testimony in a trial. Your lawyer will show the defendant did not have any privileges.
How to Find a Defamation Lawyer
When you begin looking for a lawyer to take on your defamation case, it is essential to work with someone who has relevant experience. You cannot rely on a general lawyer or even a personal injury lawyer with no experience in defamation.
Proving negligence and intentional harm in these situations is different from other cases of personal injury. Make sure you narrow your options down to those firms or lawyers who can show you they have worked on similar cases and helped those clients recover damages.
The right lawyer for your case will be able to provide adequate time and resources to investigate and prove that you deserve damages. They should have experience in both negotiating settlements and litigating cases in court.
Working with Your Defamation Lawyer
Once you have selected the lawyer you feel good working with, provide them with all the information needed to give you a good outcome. Your lawyer cannot do the job without your input, honest answers, and documentation.
Even if it is hard to talk about or if you fear you may be at fault in some way, be completely honest with your legal team. Provide all the information they request, such as the actual defamatory statement, your relationship, and past with the defendant, and any materials to help prove their claim is false.
Defamation may not involve physical injuries, but it can be a particularly damaging type of personal injury. False statements may persist and cause you harm for years to come. Work with an experienced defamation lawyer to make sure you recover the damages you deserve.