Suing for Defamation of Character: What You Need to Know
If you feel that you have been the victim of somebody defaming your character and you would like to take action, there are several things that you need to know. The first and most important is exactly what defamation of character is. Defamation of character is when an objectively false statement is made about somebody in a way that is read, seen or heard by a public third party and that is intended to defame. It cannot have been said under a circumstance that is privileged, such as when submitted as testimony in a court of law, and the end result of the statements must be shown to have caused injury. Defamation can fall into two different categories depending upon whether the statement is made is spoken or written. Spoken defamation is known as slander, and written defamation is known as libel.
Defamation cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, and this is true for a number of reasons. First, courts are hesitant about restricting people’s First Amendment rights, so in order for a defamation case to be won, the case must be extremely clear-cut. If the offending statement or statements that have been made are subjective, or if they are demonstrably true, then no matter how much damage the person or entity who is the object of the comment may suffer, there is little that can legally be done. Similarly, even if the defamatory statements are demonstrably false, if the object of the statement can’t show that any real financial damage, injury to a relationship, or harassment has ensued, a case of defamation can’t be proven.
In order to determine whether you have a viable case, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced defamation law firm. They will not only review whether your case has merit and you have been defamed, but will also go over technicalities such as statute of limitations and appropriate jurisdiction. There are many steps to proceeding with a defamation case, including the collection of evidence. The discovery process must be meticulous, as in a defamation case the burden of proof falls upon the plaintiff. Character witnesses will generally be recruited for testimony before a jury.
In many cases, an issue of defamation can be addressed by alternative methods. Many attorneys will recommend beginning with a carefully worded cease and desist letter that warns the offending party that if they do not stop making the false statements, they will be sued. These letters can request specific actions, including making a public retraction of the defamatory comments. In many instances a retraction may be part of the conclusion of a defamation lawsuit as well, and is often part of a settlement agreement that is reached out of court before the case officially goes to trial.
If you believe that you have been the victim of defamation of character, the attorneys at Bochetto & Lentz are here to help. We will review the facts of your case and advise you as to the best way to proceed.
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