What Is the Legal Process for a Ruined Reputation? – Morgan & Morgan
Defamatory accusations can have a devastating impact on your life, career, and reputation. Nobody has the right to spread false information about you or your business. Therefore, if you are the victim of attempted character assassination, the law is generally on your side. You could sue and recover a settlement for your financial losses and other damages.
Morgan & Morgan’s determined attorneys are ready to fight tooth and nail to restore your good name. Contact us today to learn about your rights and the legal process for reputation ruins.
What Is Defamation of Character?
The legal term for someone ruining your reputation is “defamation of character”. Defamation describes the act of another spreading a false statement about you or your business via the written or spoken word. Slander and libel are the two main types of defamation.
Slander refers to making false and reckless statements via the spoken word, for example, spreading rumors or making malicious accusations. Anyone can potentially commit slander. However, it frequently originates from:
- Business competitors
- Former employees
- Spiteful coworkers and acquaintances
Libel describes making false and reckless defamatory statements via the printed form or in any other written manner, including but not limited to:
- Newspaper and magazines
- Online articles and websites
- Social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook
A person’s reputation is an integral part of their identity, respectability, and dignity. Moreover, a good reputation is a valuable asset that can help further your career and business aspirations. One malicious allegation by a competitor or disgruntled acquaintance can destroy your personal and business reputation in a split second.
If someone else intends to destroy your hard work and good name, consider consulting with a defamation attorney from our firm. We can determine whether you could hold the responsible party accountable and collect damages.
Do You Have a Ruined Reputation Case?
Defamation lawsuits can be challenging to litigate. According to the Legal Information Institute (LII), to have a case, the person bringing the suit must show that:
- There was a false statement
- The statement was communicated to a third person or published
- Fault of the defendant amounts to at least negligence
- The statement caused damages or harm
What Counts as a False Statement?
Not every negative, hurtful, or offensive remark by another regarding your business or your person gives grounds for filing a defamation lawsuit. Moreover, if a statement negatively reflects on you or your business, but it is true, you would also not have a case. Further, you cannot sue someone who merely stated their opinion, even if this damages your reputation. To have a defamation case, the burden of proof falls on you to show that the statement in question is, in effect, a lie.
What Is a Published Statement?
In the context of defamation, “published” includes the written and the spoken word. In other words, even if the injurious statement was made verbally, you could have a defamation case. It is important to note that your reputation can only be ruined when the statement is shared with a third party.
What Is an Injurious or Damaging Statement?
The false statement has to be injurious to be defamatory. You will have to prove that the statement caused actual damage to you personally or your business. Examples of damages that can arise from a defamatory comment can include economic as well as non-economic damages:
- Lost wages or lost business revenue
- Emotional anguish
- Strained or severed relationships with business associates and friends
- Humiliation and shame
What Counts as a Privileged Statement?
Some conversations are “privileged”, such as client and attorney conversations and statements given in a court. Even if they provide false and injurious information, such privileged conversations and comments do not provide grounds for filing a defamation lawsuit.
The Burden of Proof in Defamation Lawsuits
The person bringing the lawsuit, also called the plaintiff, will have the burden of proof to show that they have suffered damages due to someone else’s attempt to ruin their reputation. They have to prove:
- Intent and malice or motive of the defendant
- That they personally or their business suffered harm
If you have been the victim of defamation, our experienced and committed defamation attorneys can help. We can analyze the facts of your case to determine whether you could sue another party for slander or libel.
Steps in the Legal Process for Reputation Ruins
Before you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, you will have to take some preliminary steps such as analyzing your case, assessing your damages, and gathering the evidence required to prove defamation.
1. Determining Whether You Have a Valid Ruined Reputation Case
The first step in the legal process for reputation ruins is figuring out whether you have a good case. As we have seen, you need to prove that another made a false statement, that this statement was published, and that you suffered damages as a result. A good first step can be scheduling a free consultation where our legal teams or defamation lawyers can determine whether you have grounds to file a suit.
2. Assessing Your Damages
Depending on your case, you could potentially recover three types of damages with a defamation lawsuit: special, presumed, and punitive damages.
Special damages refer to actual financial losses that the plaintiff incurred due to the libel or slander. This could include business and income losses and any other expenses arising from defamation.
Presumed damages typically do not require proof of injury or harm and may be assumed when special damages cannot be established.
Punitive damages can be awarded by a court when the defendant showed particularly malicious or egregious conduct. Punitive damages are relatively rare.
3. Gathering Evidence for a Ruined Reputation Case
Providing adequate evidence proving defamation and the resulting losses will be critical for your case. Evidence can include documents, such as a copy of the defamatory statement on a website or in print. If the injurious statement was made verbally, witness testimony could be essential.
Providing evidence for your damages is vital for recovering compensation. Evidence can include wage stubs to show income losses. If your business revenue was affected, you could provide balance sheets showing the loss. If you have suffered mental or physical health problems due to defamation, you may need a medical report or doctors’ statements for proof. A defamation lawyer can help you gather the necessary evidence for proving your case and damages.
4. Contacting a Defamation Attorney
Defamation lawsuits can be tricky to prove and often involve complex legal issues. If you are looking to sue a corporation, you can expect a vigorous fight. Having an experienced and tenacious defamation attorney by your side who has a successful track record of litigating ruined reputation cases can be advantageous. Your attorney can analyze your specific case, offer legal advice, and move forward with a lawsuit if appropriate.
5. Filing a Ruined Reputation Lawsuit
A ruined reputation lawsuit could be resolved with an out-of-court settlement and may never go to trial. However, claimants should be prepared to go all the way to get justice and receive compensation. An attorney can handle the necessary paperwork for filing your court case and communicate with the at-fault party and their legal representation.
Filing the Complaint
The legal process for ruinous reputation starts in earnest by filing the complaint in civil court. Serving the defendant with a complaint is one of the first steps in filing a lawsuit.
After the defendant is served with the complaint, they typically file a response either admitting or denying defamation. Unless a judge dismisses the case at this stage, the “discovery” phase begins now. Both parties will exchange information and evidence about the case. As part of the discovery stage, the attorneys for both sides will ask witnesses questions about the case in so-called “depositions”. Expert witnesses may also be required to provide testimony.
Settling a Ruined Reputation Case
It is not unusual for a defamation case to be settled after the discovery phase. However, if the parties cannot agree on a resolution after discovery, the case will move further through the legal process. It is important to note that the parties could potentially reach an out-of-court agreement at any point right up to trial.