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You might consider suing for defamation if you feel slighted by the words of another, but you'll need a deeper understanding of defamation and defamation law before heading to court. This guide will help you gain that knowledge by providing more information about defamation, the importance of legal representation in defamation cases, and what the legal process entails.
Defamation is an offense where someone makes a false statement which injures another party's reputation. A person's right to free speech must be balanced with an individual's right to protect one's reputation during a defamation case.
Two types of defamation exist: libel and slander. Libel is written or visual defamation of another individual's or entity's character. Slander occurs when false verbal statements damage the character of another person or entity. Libel is typically seen as more damaging than slander, as its statements are more permanent, so the compensation for libel is usually greater.
Legal action may be warranted if the written, visual, or oral statement made by a person or publication satisfies the following criteria:
In addition, public figures, including celebrities and politicians, must show people who published defamatory statements against them acted with actual malice, or disregard for the truth. If a case satisfies all these criteria, that casemay be worth pursuing. For example, you may pursue legal action if you feel statements, images, or comments made by others have falsely:
You should get legal representation if you feel you were defamedor if a defamation case is broughtagainst you.
"It is almost impossible to do a defamation case without a lawyer, and impossible if the company or person you are suing is represented by a lawyer."
Michael Doland, Business attorney, Los Angeles
Personal injury lawyers with experience in defamation cases know the processes to prove a plaintiff has suffered damages due to publication of libel or slander. These lawyers can help collect evidence to prove or disprove that damages were suffered. Attorneys can also decide appropriate compensation for these damages, as they have an invaluable knowledge of evidence rules, legal strategy, and procedures. While some people may be surprised by the cost of legal representation, plaintiffs typically avoid paying upfront costs as their lawyers work on contingency. With this payment arrangement, lawyers will absorb many costs, such as the cost of hiring professional witnesses. Lawyers will only recoup these costs if they win.
After filing a defamation complaint, the case will enter a phase called discovery, where parties exchange information toprepare for a trial. After discovery, in most defamation cases, the parties will settle. This settlement may occur through discussions between both parties and their lawyers, or with a mediator or arbitrator assistance. During this process, the defendant will agree to award damages to the plaintiff or the plaintiff will drop the case.
If a settlement cannot be reached, the defamation case will go to trial. During a trial, the plaintiff and defendant, or their legal representatives, will present their cases. A jury will consider the evidence presented and witness testimonies before giving its verdict.
Most personal injury attorneys representing defamed parties work on a contingency basis. In other words, they'll receive only a percentage of the net recovery if they win the case, usually 30% to 45%. The client does not pay anything when an attorney working on contingency loses, although the fee agreement will determine if nominal fees apply.
Attorneys representing defendants in defamation cases typically receive an hourly fee, as well as a retainer for securing services. These attorneys usually send itemized monthly statements so that their clients don't receive a high bill at the end of the case.
If you are concerned about statements made about you, or worry about statements you may have said about another person, remember there's no substitute for the experience of a personal injury attorney. Most lawyers provide free consultations to help you decide whether you should pursue legal action.