With reputation being such an important part of the business and political worlds, the law of defamation was put in place to protect people's reputations from unfair attack.
The idea of defamation law is to balance the private right to protect one's reputation with the public right to freedom of speech. Defamation law allows people who say or publish false and malicious comments to be sued.
Oral Defamation and Published Defamation
The two types of defamation are oral defamation and published defamation. Oral defamation is called slander and entails, for example, comments or stories told at a social gathering or meeting.
Published defamation is called libel, for example, a newspaper article or television broadcast. Pictures, as well as words, can be libelous.
Defamation involves anything that injures a person's reputation. Comments that cause a person disgrace or ridicule are likely to be considered defamation. Without being aware of it, nearly everyone makes statements that qualify as defamation almost every day. However, it is very rare that someone uses the law of defamation against these statements.
Defamation Lawsuit Defense
Once threatened with a defamation suit, deciding a defense is the first logical step. Most people focus on whether or not something can be considered defamation.
However, the important question is whether you have a right to say it. If you are being sued on the charge of defamation because you made a defamatory statement, you can defend your speech or writing on various grounds. There are three main types of defense for defamation lawsuits.
Truth and Duty to Provide Information
The first defense for defamation is that what you said was true and, therefore, cannot be considered defamation, but fact. The second defense for defamation is that you had a duty to provide information. The third defense is that you were expressing an opinion.
Usually, the threat of a defamation suit comes first. A certified letter requesting that you retract a statement in lieu of being sued will come first. Sometimes there are numerous threats of defamation, however most of them are just bluffs and nothing happens. Just the threat alone though is sometimes enough to deter someone from speaking out, or enough to make them publish a retraction.
When a Defamation Case Goes to Court
If the defamation case goes to court, a hearing before a judge or jury will take place. The majority of cases are abandoned or settled out of court. Settlements sometimes don’t necessarily have to be monetary and a published apology will suffice.
Cost of Defense
Because of the high-dollar costs of legal advice, most people never sue for defamation. Going up against a rich opponent will find you looking for an escape route, whether you are suing them or vice versa.
Cases can go on for years and judgments can be appealed, making costs enormous, leaving only the wealthy to pursue cases to the end. The result is that defamation law is often used by the rich and powerful to deter criticisms. It is seldom helpful to ordinary people whose reputations are attacked unfairly.
Contact a Defamation Lawyer
Defamation lawsuits and threats to sue for defamation are often used to try to silence those who criticize people with money and power. Be aware of your rights and observe some simple guidelines to help you make informed choices about what to say and publish. If you are being threatened with a defamation lawsuit or have one you would like to pursue, contact a defamation lawyer today. A defamation lawyer can help you decide whether a case is legitimate or not.
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