Sued for slander what steps should I take?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was recently threatened with a lawsuit for slander. I am really panicked. I am wondering if this is something to ignore or should I hire a lawyer and fight back?”
If you have been sued for slander or someone has made a threat to sue you it’s natural that you would be worried, maybe even panicked. While it’s never a good idea to ignore a threat, especially if a suit against you has been filed, it is good to take a few steps back and calmly and rationally evaluate the situation. Here are several steps you need to take.
Steps after a slander suit has been threatened or filed against you:
- Take a deep breath and calm down.
The first step if you have been sued for slander or if someone is threatening to sue you is to calm down. Do not start lying, deleting files, reposting angry statements online or retaliating against the accuser.
Before doing anything, make sure you understand the depth of the issue. Many individuals have turned something that was never a problem into a real problem by covering up the actions or by by losing control and producing new evidence that they really did do something illegal.
- Legally evaluate the situation.
The second step is to make sure you understand the definition of slander and when someone can actually file a legal claim against you.
Specifically, slander consists of spoken words of fact that are not true (as opposed to satire, hyperbole or rhetorical hyperbole), which are “published” or told to a third-party. The information must also be unprivileged and caused loss or injury to another person. Loss or injury may include loss of reputation and monetary loss. In some jurisdictions, injury may also include emotional distress or mental anguish.
To win in court all personal injury plaintiffs must prove loss or injury. If the plaintiff cannot prove that the defamatory statement caused loss, they do not have a personal injury claim.
You will also need to evaluate who sent the threat. Was it a lawyer or was it another individual who is threatening to file a suit against you? What type of content is being challenged? Was it a personal attack, a copyright or trademark issue, a threat or harassment? Did you really say the remarks in questions? Were the remarks a statement of fact? Were the statements true?
- Limit your communications with the accuser.
Most legal experts suggest rather than directly confronting your accuser it’s better to assess the situation, and if it is a valid threat, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer. Limited correspondence such as “I received information about your claim of slander and I have hired legal counsel. I will respond to your claim as soon as possible” may be fine.
It’s important to note that you SHOULD NOT make any claim of innocence or guilt until you have talked to a lawyer.
- Contact a lawyer.
If you have reviewed the legal issues and believe the accuser may have a valid case or if someone has already retained a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against you, it’s best to discuss your case with a lawyer. Unfortunately, the legal system is complicated and may be difficult to navigate without proper legal training and experience.
Finding a good lawyer can be as simple as talking to family members or friends or gathering some names from a thorough internet search and scheduling a few appointments to talk to the attorneys.
In America individuals have the right to free speech, but this right must also be balanced against other people’s rights to have their reputation protected from lies or defamatory statements.
Unfortunately, given the rise of social media, it’s easier than ever to post something defamatory and spread it to thousands of people in an instant. With that in mind, it’s very important never to say or post something that is not true, publish it online, or verbalize it to a third-party. If you do say something and the information published is not true, assuming it causes cause someone else loss or injury, you could find yourself the defendant in a defamation lawsuit.
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