Defamation of character has become a big problem in today’s world especially after the advances in web technologies. It has become easier for people to publish their negative views at various places with least fuss. Another advantage of cyberspace for them is that they can express themselves without disclosing their identities.
Many of these derogatory comments are made with a pseudonym or anonymously. The most effective counter to this defamation, whether online defamation or otherwise is a lawsuit.
Defamation and their types
Defamation, in general, constitutes a derogatory false statement published by someone against an affected party which results in damage to his professional or personal life. The affected party may be an individual or a business. There could be two types of defamation and they are liberal and slander. The primary difference between the two is that liberal is written form whereas the slander is oral or verbal form.
Groundwork for lawsuits
The first step of filing a lawsuit is establishing a prima facie case. For this, you need to figure out whether you have a valid case or not. The primary elements on which a defamation case is based are
- Whether the statement is false
- Whether the statement was published and is read or heard by anyone other than the defendant or plaintiff.
- Whether the statement is of fact and not of opinion.
- Whether the statement caused some type of damage to the reputation of the plaintiff.
- Whether the statement is privileged.
Here the plaintiff is the person that is being defamed and the defendant is the person doing the defamation. A published statement which is a fact but is false and has caused damage to the reputation of the plaintiff can be a cause and basis of a lawsuit provided it is not privileged. If the plaintiff is a public figure than he has an additional burden of proof of proving that the statement was made either with knowledge that it’s false or in reckless disregard of the truth.
Types of damages
There can be three types of damages in a defamation lawsuit namely actual, assumed and punitive damages. Actual damages are those that a plaintiff has incurred professionally and to his property. It also includes the amount he had to pay due to the defamatory statement.
Assumed damages are the damages that the court assumes as the monetary figure of damage sustained by the plaintiff. This could be any amount that the court decides. Punitive damages are the damages that are meant as a punishment for the defendant.
Filing a lawsuit
A lawsuit needs two basic things to survive and those are
- The evidences
- The attorney
You need to hire a specialist attorney that specializes in defamation cases. The primary part of hiring a lawyer is deciding his fee. Normally the defamation attorneys work on contingency basis. It means that the attorney charges a percentage of net recovery. This amount is usually between 25% – 40% depending on the stipulated conditions. You also need to discuss the evidences collected by you and the need of any further pieces of evidence. The primary evidences are those which are needed to prove and support the elements of the prima false case.