What is defamation?
Defamation is slander or libel, in which the reputation of the individual is adversely affected by statements made, either verbally or written, in a public forum. The roots of defamation go back for centuries, and the merits of allegations of defamation in a court of law have been consistently argued. The issue of fact versus opinion is one argument that is distinguished in cases of defamation within the United States. If a malicious statement is presented as fact, the person against whom the statement is made can sue the offending individual. This is possible if the person being defamed can prove the statement is false.
Cases involving defamation of character are more common with regards to notable individuals within society, such politicians. In cases like these, it is difficult for the individual to prove “actual malice,” which is necessary to win a lawsuit. This is because it is essential for society to be able to criticize those who govern them without fear of reprisal.
However, pertaining to individuals who need their reputations to make a living within their communities, defamation of character is a real possibility, because negative remarks made in a public venue can have a devastating effect on the individual’s livelihood. This can warrant the use of a defamation attorney to assist the person in regaining their reputation and recouping from their losses due to the defamatory comments or incident.
The laws in the United States are written to help in these types of scenarios, to assist those who are being unfairly persecuted by others who are making statements intended to cause them harm and distress. For example, calling a teacher a child abuser in a public forum, without any hard evidence to support their statement can lead to a lawsuit by the teacher. If the teacher loses a job as a result of the person’s actions, the teacher would likely have a case regarding defamation.
In the United States, there is the issue of “freedom of speech,” which must be taken into consideration in cases regarding defamation. In general, a person who makes a comment must have some reasonable expectation that the opinion expressed is protected by the law. Thus, this can interfere with a lawsuit’s legitimacy. Every case is different and a qualified defamation attorney should be consulted to assist in determining if a lawsuit is warranted or if it would hold up in a court of law.
How can a defamation attorney help?
A defamation attorney is familiar with the laws regarding this issue. Defamation, although a serious issue, can be difficult to prove. The attorney would ask for all evidence that defamation has occurred. There would likely be a third party to the case involved, that is, the person(s) who witnessed the defamation, either in verbal or written word.
Written word is often considered a more serious offense because of its potential longevity. For example, those views expressed on the Internet are more difficult to eradicate and the number of viewers is more difficult to ascertain. Due to the Internet’s vastness and voyeuristic quality, defamation committed there can be a more contentious issue in general.
A skilled attorney will be able to conduct the necessary investigation into the case to determine if enough evidence exists to warrant a lawsuit. He would know if a court of law would be amenable to hearing the case, and can also give an expert opinion regarding the case’s potential outcome. Thus, hiring a skilled attorney in a defamation case would be critical to the case’s successful result.
What qualifications should a defamation attorney have?
A defamation attorney should have expertise in this area of law prior to taking your case. This should be the particular area of law in which the attorney is interested and should comprise a good amount of the attorney’s academic background and past case experience. The attorney should appear confident in his abilities to handle your case and should also express his interest in representing you. Be sure to ask the potential attorney you are considering hiring how many past clients he has represented in defamation cases. A good attorney would have positive responses to your questions during the consultation.
What questions should I ask?
Because every defamation case is unique, it is difficult to know exactly what to ask a potential attorney you are considering. You should not feel embarrassed to discuss your case with this professional. If he has the vast experience you are seeking in defamation cases, it should be information he is comfortable hearing since he has been in litigation with many others before you with similar allegations. If you are uncomfortable, and you believe that it is due to the rapport you have failed to build with this particular attorney, it may be important to consider this information during the consultation period and before choosing an attorney to represent you.
Your attorney should have the interpersonal skills needed to make you feel at ease throughout the process of filing the lawsuit and pursuing a verdict in the case. He should be asking you many relevant questions to help assess the merits of your possible lawsuit. It would be better to know upfront if a lawsuit is warranted by his professional expertise than to pursue a worthless lawsuit that will represent much in monetary loss and no positive results.
It is essential that your attorney be able to answer your questions throughout the process of evaluating your case and during the trial, if one is necessary. Your attorney should also have many questions of his own that require answers throughout the process. This is how you can assess an attorney and determine if he is the one worthy of representing you during a trial.
He will be evaluating your case on several important points, including how the statement was made, how it was published, and if it was indeed false. These are important to the viability of your lawsuit, since the laws of the United States depend on your ability to prove your allegation. Your defamation attorney will guide you through the process to determine if your allegations warrant further action, which is exactly what you need when your reputation is at stake.