Get Compensation for Defamation of Character
Where does the line end for freedom of speech and begin where you are infringing against the rights of another to defend his or her good name? Defamation law is meant to discern the difference and when one party is wronged, to properly compensate that individual for words or actions that have hurt their name and/or business.
What is Defamation?
According to Cornell Law School, “Defamation is a statement that injures a third party's reputation. The tort of defamation includes both libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements).”
To prove defamation, the plaintiff must show:
- That a false statement has been made that is purported to be fact
- That the statement has been published or communicated to a third party
- Fault by the publishing/communicating party that in the very last amounts to negligence
- Proof that some harm and/or damage has been caused to the subject of said statement.
- The statement did not fall into a privileged category (such as a witness making a statement during a trial)
In this new age of social media, it is far more common to have someone file a defamation suit due to the ease with which we can now make inflammatory comments. Some people are under the impression that all social media posts are protected as free speech, but that is not always the case, especially when the aggrieved party is not a celebrity or public official.
Public Officials and Figures Have Higher Burden of Proof
When it comes to public officials and other public figures, the standard of proof changes significantly. As public figures/officials, it is generally accepted that the public can sound off against policy and/or statements made by these figures. Unless the public figure can prove that the statement made was done so with “actual malice,” the case is more than likely a losing one.
The root of such proof dates to the 1988 precedent set in the Hustler v. Falwell case. That case set the precedent that otherwise defamatory remarks were protected by the First Amendment when made against said public figures. The case was made even more famous in 1996 when “The People vs. Larry Flynt” was released, with Woodie Harrelson portraying the polarizing founder of “Hustler” magazine, Larry Flynt.
How Much Will a Defamation Attorney Cost?
Most defamation cases are handled in the same fashion as personal injury cases in that they are paid via a contingency fee to the attorney. If the case wins, both you and the attorney will split the settlement, less expenses, per an agreed-upon split. Generally, that split will range from 75-25 to 60-40 in your favor, with the circumstances regarding how the case is resolved deciding the final number.
For instance, if the case is settled quickly and there is not a trial, the attorney may take a 75-25 split. However, if the case goes to trial or it is a prolonged arbitration or negotiation, the split is likely to be closer to 60-40. Roughly one-quarter of all cases are settled before a defamation lawsuit is even filed, with another third being settled before trial.
Another advantage to hiring an attorney in a defamation suit is the firm will more than likely front the costs of reports and witnesses, and in a defamation suit, you are going to need expert testimony to determine the monetary damages incurred. The recovery of these costs will come off the top of the settlement before the settlement is split between the attorney and client.
If, on the other hand, you are the defendant in a defamation suit, you will more than likely be billed hourly by your attorney. You will more than likely have to pay a retainer to your attorney from which your monthly billing will be deducted. Once that retainer is exhausted, you will be required to once again pay the attorney to ensure his or her time is compensated for throughout the case.
How Will a Defamation Case Play Out?
After the complaint is filed by your attorney, the litigation process is started with discovery. It is during this stage that both parties exchange information they have about the case with the other party. This process will include the exchange of records and depositions. This is a key component to the case as it will often determine if the case is settled or moves to trial.
In most cases, defamation suits are settled before they reach trial. If a settlement is reached before trial, your attorney will negotiate terms on your behalf.
In about 40 percent of defamation cases, a pre-trial settlement is unobtainable and the case will go to court. Your attorney and the defense attorney will present their cases, including expert testimony (likely presented by both sides). This is where your attorney will really earn his or her money, as the skill of the attorney is often the deciding factor in persuading the jury to decide in your favor.
Do You Need a Defamation Attorney?
Have you recently fallen victim to derogatory comments that have hurt you personally, professionally, or negatively impacted your business? If this is the case, a defamation lawsuit attorney can help you decide whether not you are entitled to damages. To discuss your case, give us a call at 855.633.0888. Your initial consultation is free of charge and you are under no obligation to use our services. If you would like to learn more about our legal services before contacting us, please click here.