I’m here to tell you that suing for defamation could be one of the biggest mistakes of your life. Why would I say this when I make a living as an internet defamation lawyer? That’s a good question.
Because it’s the TRUTH.
And you know what? You deserve to hear the truth.
There is nothing worse than making an important decision without knowing what you’re getting into. Yet that’s what a lot of people do when they file a suit for libel or slander, for example.
The mistake is not knowing what you want and not knowing what to expect.
Let’s focus on what you want first:
1. Your Purpose
Do you know what you hope to accomplish with the lawsuit? Sometimes I don’t even know what to choose for dinner, let alone what my purpose is in a major deal like a lawsuit. So I understand if this question is a bit heavy. But you really have to think long and hard about this one.
Do you want the offending material removed from the internet? Do you simply want the material not to show up in the top 10 results in Google? Do you want to punish the publisher? Are you seeking money damages for loss of reputation and/or humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress? Are you willing to pay an attorney top dollar to achieve any one of these results?
Well, the answer to the above questions will greatly influence whether you should file suit. For example, there are several other cost-effective ways to manage your online reputation that don’t involve bringing a defamation action. On the other hand, if you are seeking money damages, a lawsuit may be your only avenue.
2. Your Expectations
You need to know that prosecuting an action for defamation from start to finish could set you back between 25K and 100K depending upon the nature of the case.
You also should be aware that in some instances filing suit can make the situation worse. In some cases filing suit will cause your opponent to become increasingly aggressive and bold in his or her attacks against your reputation online. I have seen situations where the defendant has actively recruited many others to attack a client’s reputation. This is known as a "mobosphere" attack and is nearly impossible to stop once it begins.
But I believe the most under appreciated result of filing a defamation suit is the emotional toll it can take on a person. Not only can lawsuits last years, but they can be very invasive and time consuming. Defense counsel will undoubtedly attempt to discover everything about you in order to discredit you. They may hire private investigators to dig up dirt on you, even stuff that may not be related to the case.
Filing suit is like becoming a celebrity without any of the benefits.
Don’t get me wrong. The point of this post is not to discourage you from bringing an action for defamation. It is simply meant to make you think about what are you trying to achieve and whether litigation fits with your goals and tolerance for risk. Make sure you hire an experienced defamation attorney to handle your matter.