You should concentrate on defending the claim first. A good lawyer in your city who does both criminal and civil should be able to handle all your needs.
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You always have the right to sue. However, absent a compelling case and a "deep pockets" defendant I would not expect someone to accept this case on a contingent basis.
You will need to talk to attorneys in your area and see if they would be willing to take the case on a contingency basis. Typically, insurance does not cover this sort of thing so you may find out that the target defendant is judgment proof (i.e. a judgment is worth nothing against her). If so, there is no point in spending time and money to get a judgment against someone who will never pay. Get an attorney to defend you and see what happens from there. Once the case is over, then assess whether you have a case to pursue as well as who will help you do it. Be aware, however, of the statute of limitations for the defamation claim and be sure to address that with your attorney.
Good luck and be careful..............it's a jungle out there.
Legal Disclaimer: Mr. Habberfield is licensed to practice law in the States of New York and Pennsylvania. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and time-lines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Habberfield strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to insure proper advice is received.
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