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It has never been more important to protect your reputation than in this technologically-driven age of social media. Damage to your reputation can affect your relationships, your ability to seek and keep employment, and ultimately, your credibility. If you believe that someone has published a false statement about you that affects your reputation, you may be entitled to compensation. In the eyes of the law, damage to a person’s reputation amounts to personal injury and where that damage was not justified, a person is entitled to commence legal proceedings to compensate them for that reputational damage.
Our expert defamation lawyers can provide you with the legal services you require throughout your defamation matter. We can advise you at all stages, from considering whether or not to commence a defamation action and drafting concerns notice to the author of defamatory comments, to assisting you with legal proceedings and guiding you with sound legal advice throughout the process.
Is it worth suing for defamation?
Defamation matters can be lengthy, confusing, and costly. Recent high profile defamation cases involving large sums being paid to celebrities such as Geoffrey Rush and Rebel Wilson have however highlighted the importance the law places on a person’s reputation. It is therefore critical to seek expert legal advice about whether a defamation action is right for you and to ensure the best outcome in your dispute.
Defamation law differs across Australia, depending on the Defamation Act in force in the relevant State jurisdiction. Generally, defamation occurs when a person’s reputation (or the reputation of a small business) is damaged by information that is published to one or more third parties.
To succeed in a defamation claim, you must prove three things:
- information was published to a third person that;
- identifies you; and
- the information was defamatory – meaning it must negatively impact (“lower”) your reputation in the eyes of the third party.
The law of defamation, therefore, requires you to demonstrate that information was “published” which clearly identifies you or your small business, and that the information contains defamatory imputations. Defamatory “imputations” are the basis of a defamation case. An imputation is simply a defamatory statement, either express or implied, that says something about your reputation that causes it damage in the eyes of the third party.
Note: under Australian defamation law, only individuals, certain not-for-profit organisations and companies with 10 or fewer employees are able to sue for defamation.
Defences to a successful defamation claim
There are a number of defences to a defamation claim, which a defendant can argue even if defamation is proven. If a defendant successfully argues one of these defences, this will reduce or eliminate any entitlement to compensation.
Some of the common defences to a defamation action include:
- Truth: if the information is substantially or wholly the truth, then the information cannot be defamatory;
- Triviality: if the information causes a trivial amount of damage (such as being published to a very limited audience), this will reduce or eliminate any entitlement to compensation;
- Innocent dissemination: this will be a defence if the publisher was publishing information created by someone else and did not know that the information contained defamatory material;
- Honest opinion: if it can be shown that the information was an opinion, rather than expressing a fact, and that opinion was based on proper material and is a matter of public interest, this will establish a defence;
- Public interest: if a media outlet publishes something that is of public concern or public interest, this may be a defence to the publishing of any defamatory statement;
- Absolute privilege: if the defamatory content attracts absolute privilege, this defence can be relied upon;
- Qualified privilege: where both parties have an interest in the communication, there may be a defence of qualified privilege. Note that there are different tests under common law and statute in order to raise this defence.
Navigating these defences and whether they might apply to your defamatory matter is notoriously difficult, and it is recommended that you seek expert legal advice about how these defences might affect your case.
Do I need a lawyer to sue for defamation?
Defamation law is complex, and it can be difficult to negotiate the relevant Defamation Act applicable in your state, and any defamation cases that might be critical in deciding your legal case. In NSW, and indeed across Australia, it is advisable that you engage an experienced defamation lawyer to assist with this complex area of law and ensure you receive compensation for any reputational damage. In addition, strict time limits for suing for defamation mean that in order to commence legal action, a defamed person will only have one year from the date the defamatory material is published.
Recent amendments to the Defamation Act 2005 (NSW) also create a new requirement in NSW that a defamation action cannot be commenced until the wrongdoer has been provided a “concerns notice”, after which they will be entitled to make an offer to make amends. An experienced defamation lawyer can assist with the drafting of your concerns notice, to minimise the need for costly court proceedings and to maximise the chance that the defamation dispute can be managed efficiently and with minimal further reputational damage that can arise if legal proceedings are pursued.
Honest legal advice is only a phone call away. Contact our experienced defamation lawyers today for a free consultation to discuss your rights under defamation law, and whether you might be entitled to seek compensation.
The above is general legal information and should not be considered legal advice. You should contact our law firm for legal advice tailored to your specific legal matter. The courts deal with matters on a case-by-case basis. It should also be noted that there may be court delays due to COVID-19 and alternative arrangements made for legal proceedings.
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Frequently Asked Questions.
A defamation lawyer can provide you with sound legal advice about whether you are entitled to compensation. Our expert defamation lawyers can assist with drafting concerns notices and legal documentation, representing you in court proceedings, and managing what is a costly process to ensure you get the best outcome in your defamation matter.
The cost of a defamation lawyer will depend on the complexity of your case, and whether it can be resolved prior to legal proceedings. Contact us now for a free consultation and to obtain a quote regarding your defamation matter.
Given the complex nature of defamation law, it is critical to receive sound legal advice and representation at all stages of a defamation action. Our expert defamation lawyers are well-equipped to assist you in all aspects of your defamation case.
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