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Before a lawyer will file a defamation claim on your behalf, several questions must be answered. A variety of factors will determine whether you have a viable defamation case that is likely to end in a settlement or court award.
5 Questions a Lawyer Will Ask Before Taking Your Defamation Case
A defamation lawyer will take your case only after evaluating your answers to the following questions:
- Is the statement true (or true for the most part)?
Generally speaking, if a statement is true or true for the most part then it may be hard to find a lawyer to pursue your defamation claim. However, Florida recognizes defamation by implication, which means that someone can make a true statement, but depending on context, it can result in a false impression. For example, if someone says, “Joe likes little kids,” this can mean two different things, depending on how, where, and when the statement is used. Defamation damages can be borne out of being publicly wronged, humiliated, or shamed.
- Who heard or read the defamatory statements?
Even if only a few people heard or read the defamatory statement, online or otherwise, it could be enough to cause real harm to you, your family, your reputation, or your business. The defense will ask, during discovery, for the names of the people who heard or read the libelous or slanderous content, so be prepared to share that information.
- How did the defamatory statement(s) affect your reputation in your community or your business reputation?
A statement can be insulting, offensive, or insensitive, but not rise to the level of an actionable defamation claim. For a statement to be defamatory under Florida law, it must be a false statement of fact (not opinion) that exposes someone to harm, ridicule, contempt, or shunning, or injures that person’s ability to do business or derive income from a trade.
- Has the statement been removed or retracted?
If a defamatory statement has been removed in compliance with Florida’s retraction law (which relates to newspapers and periodicals), the injured party will only be able to recover actual economic damages that resulted from the defaming content and will not be able to recover general damages. Under the law, you have five days to provide the publisher with a written notice identifying the defamatory statement. The publisher then has a specific period of time (from 10 to 45 days, depending on the type of publication) to publish a full, fair and correct retraction, apology, or correction in a prominent area of the publication. The retraction, apology, or correction must be at least as prominently displayed as the original defamatory statement.
- Did you see a medical professional about your emotional distress?
In addition to lost wages and future earnings, a plaintiff can recover costs associated with mental health or medical expenses that were required as a result of the defamation. To make a legitimate claim for emotional damages, a victim shoud seek the help of a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
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