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A Guide to Defending Yourself Against False Accusations

June 9, 2023

Everyone, at some point in their life, has had to contend with someone saying something about them that isn’t true. Sometimes false accusations can be extreme and even rise to the level of libel or slander. If you’re already in the middle of a civil or criminal case and someone is making false accusations, it can have a devastating effect on the outcome of your case. If someone makes false accusations against you at work or online, you might have grounds for filing a civil lawsuit against them. If you are the victim of false accusations, you should contact an attorney and read this guide to defending yourself against false allegations. 

Stay Calm—and Silent

You might have the urge to speak up and defend yourself loudly against false accusations. Most of the time, that just adds fuel to the fire, opens you up to additional scrutiny, and gives people a chance to twist your words and use them against you. The best initial defense against false accusations is to stay calm and silent. Speak with an attorney right away about whether the accuser is doing anything illegal, and if so, what your rights are. An attorney can advise you as to whether it’s in your best interests to let the situation blow over without response, or if you should speak out or pursue legal action against the person making false accusations. Either way, you shouldn’t communicate publicly or privately with the person making the allegations. Let your attorney speak for you. 

Understand the Difference Between Libel, Slander, and Defamation

Libel, slander, and defamation are similar terms that fall under the same general area of law. All three concern false statements or accusations that can hurt someone’s reputation, and they all fall under the area of defamation law. Defamation is the act of making a false statement publicly or to a third party about someone’s character, and directly causing them harm because of it. Libel and slander are both types of defamation. Libel involves defaming another person through written word, for instance, online, in an article or publication, or in a blog. Slander involves defaming someone through an oral statement that attacks the person’s character, professional standing, or personal life. 

Know When You’re Entitled to Take Legal Action

You can take legal action against someone who has defamed you if you suffered damage to your personal or professional life as a result. If someone writes, posts, or publishes something about you online without your consent or authorization and it makes untrue claims about you that harm your personal or professional life an attorney can file a defamation lawsuit. If someone states false facts against you that injure your professional or personal life or accuses you of a crime, you might also be entitled to file a defamation lawsuit. Unless the defendant in the lawsuit lied on the stand or in criminal proceedings, he or she will not face jail or prison time because of a defamation lawsuit. The purpose of the lawsuit is to obtain monetary compensation for your damages and to clear your name. 

Be Prepared to Back Up Your Claims

You need to have documentation of what the person wrote or said about you to proceed with a defamation lawsuit. You also need to be able to prove that the person caused you some kind of injury or damage by defaming you. If you file a defamation lawsuit without compelling evidence or proof, you risk the person counter suing you for defaming them, or just having your lawsuit dismissed. If your case proceeds to trial, you will need to prove through a preponderance of evidence that:

  • The defendant made a false accusation(s) or statement(s) about you to at least one other person.
  • The defendant was negligent about determining the truth of the statement(s) or that they acted with malice.
  • The statement(s) wasn’t privileged or protected by law.
  • You were damaged personally or professionally because of the false accusation(s) or statement(s).

In some cases, the damages or injury caused by false accusations are so serious or severe that you don’t even need to prove damages. This might include someone accusing you of:

  • Committing a crime
  • Abuse
  • Engaging in professional misconduct
  • Adultery or sexual misconduct
  • Child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or mistreatment

Obtain Compensation for Defamation

If a judge or jury determines that what the defendant did rose to the level of defamation, you can obtain compensation for your damages. Your attorney can suggest an appropriate level of compensation, but ultimately the actual dollar amount paid or consequences the defendant faces for defamation will depend on what a judge or jury decides. Your attorney can ask that you be compensated for:

  • Lost wages
  • Reduction in future earnings due to damage to your reputation
  • Lost business and/or economic opportunities
  • Pain and suffering
    Compensation for medical expenses for physical or mental damages caused by the defamation

The court might order punitive damages if the defendant acted maliciously, lied on the stand or to an officer of the court, interfered with court proceedings, or lied in court documents or to law enforcement. 

If You’ve Been the Victim of False Accusations in Pima County, Call Us Now
If you have been the victim of defamation, slander, or libel in Pima County, AZ and want to explore your legal rights, contact us today at the law office of Janet Altschuler. Janet Altschuler can evaluate the facts and determine if you have enough evidence to pursue a defamation lawsuit. If you’re already in the middle of a court case and someone is making false accusations against you, she can determine how to proceed to clear your name without harming your case. Contacting an attorney will protect your rights, preserve your name, and get you the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 520-829-4460 or 520-200-5003 to schedule a free consultation or find out more information about how we can help you defend yourself against false accusations or charges in Pima County.

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