If you Google your name, you will likely see a multitude of results pop up.
While we can control what people can see on our Facebook profiles, what appears on our LinkedIn profiles, and what we say on Twitter, you unfortunately cannot control all of the information that may arise in a Google search.
For example, a mug shot from a DUI arrest years ago may still be one of the top results. If you’re a business, a highly negative Yelp review may appear before any positive reviews. All of this information can adversely affect your reputation in many ways. After all, when you apply for a job or ask someone on a date, wher do you think they’ll likely turn? Likely, Google!
While it is difficult enough to control our online reputations, it can be even more distressing if someone puts false information about you online.
We can’t control what other people write about us.
That being said, you do not have to just live with the reputational fallout from false statements online. Instead, call the Farrow Law Firm and learn about how a reputation management attorney can help you.
Your Legal Rights
You cannot always take legal action against someone, for making negative statements. If a statement is, unfortunately, true, you can enlist our help to try to get those statements removed. But the person who spread the news, will not necessarily be responsible for any adverse effects on your life and reputation. On the other hand, if someone made false statements, you may be able to take legal action to recover for your losses.
When someone makes a false statement about you or your company, it can be considered “defamation” under the law. Defamation can be verbal (known as slander) or written (known as libel). Written false statements published online may constitute libel. Not every falsehood online will be libel, however, as you must prove certain elements to pursue a claim, including:
- The statement was false, as there are no causes of action for true statements
- The statement was not “privileged.” An example of privileged information would be information from a court document or public records
- The statement is not the person’s opinion. In order for a statement to constitute defamation, you must be able to prove it is inherently true or false.
- The person published the statement for others to hear or read, such as saying it over the radio or publishing it on a website accessible to third parties. Saying a false statement in a private message or email will not constitute defamation, though a comment on a public profile page or in a group email may be actionable.
- The statement caused real and demonstrable damage to your reputation. You will not have a claim if someone said something false that did not cause you reputational harm.
- A reasonable person would believe the statement. If a statement is truly unbelievable, it will likely not lead to legal action.
Some statements will always be presumed “defamation per se,” and you will not need to provide any further proof that the statements hurt your reputation to prove a claim. Some examples of defamation per se include stating false criminal allegations or convictions, saying someone has a “loathsome” health condition or disease, false accusations of sexual misconduct or infidelity, or false comments regarding a person’s occupation.
In some cases, someone may publish a false statement online, and then someone else may repost the statement or the information. If the new publication of the false information will reach a new group of people, that party may also be liable for defamation in a separate cause of action.
Finally, if a person who controls a news source, website, or another medium on which someone posted false and defamatory statements, that person has the duty to remove the statements when possible.
Unfortunately, many people may refuse to remove such statements to limit the damage to your reputation. In these cases, that party may be held accountable for failing to remove the defamation from public access.
How a Reputation Management Law Firm Can Help
Both individuals and corporations can become the victims of defamation and can suffer serious harm to their reputations.
An individual can lose career prospects, political aspirations, or personal relationships due to defamation. False and defamatory statements can cause companies to lose customers and profits, which can even result in the closure of the business if the defamation is not properly addressed. If you become aware of harmful false statements online, you should not wait to consult an experienced attorney about your legal options. By pursuing a defamation lawsuit, you can seek damages for any lost income, emotional distress, or other harm you can prove you suffered due to the defamation.
Many false statements online do not rise to the legal definition of defamation since they are merely opinions. That does not mean the statement will be any less harmful, however. In this day and age, too many people believe opinions to be facts, and rely on them to make decisions. The good news is that our reputation management law firm can help in this situation, as well. We often work to get harmful statements removed from the internet to limit the harm to the reputations of our clients. We will also evaluate your situation to determine whether you can seek additional legal recourse via a defamation lawsuit.
Contact Our Skilled New York and Florida Reputation Management Attorney for Help
At Farrow Law Firm, we know how important each person and company’s reputation is to their success. We have seen firsthand the devastating effects of online information – both true or false – on our clients’ lives and livelihoods. We can review the concerning information and advise you of your options and how we may help. If you would like more information about our reputation management services, please contact us online or call us at 954-252-9818 to schedule a free consultation today.
Most people think that lawsuits happen to other people and other businesses. That is, until it happens to you.
Even the most responsible, savvy business owner is not immune to the potential that an injured client or greedy plaintiff’s attorney will file suit against the company. The truth is nearly half of all small businesses are involved in some type of civil litigation every year. But there are some ways you can help make the process easier on yourself and mitigate the financial and emotional stress. Read on below to find out what to do in case of a business lawsuit.
When can a lawsuit happen?
To assess your chances of being sued, the first step is to figure out where you could potentially be liable or otherwise legally and financially responsible. Since the goal of a civil lawsuit is to end a dispute between two parties (businesses, nonprofits, and individuals), it’s important to be aware of the “civil wrongs” that lead to these cases. Contract disputes are a very common source of liability for businesses. Other civil wrongs small businesses encounter are called “torts.” These could be property torts, liability torts, dignitary torts, infringement liability, and negligence. Other problems could involve employment law, taking into account the many stages of the hiring and management process. Some other case may involve intellectual property rights, like copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Because if you use another firm or individual’s IP for your own business, you could be liable for theft and money damages.
What steps can you take to prevent a lawsuit?
As with most things in life, it’s a good rule of thumb to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. For most businesses, it’s wise to have insurance against a possible lawsuit. General liability insurance typically serves as the first line of defense for lawsuits against small business owners. It will usually cover lawsuits related to false advertising, property damage, claims of an injury on your property, and similar occurrences that may prompt a lawsuit. And depending on the exact nature of your business, you may require more specialized insurance.
Another good way to be prepared for a lawsuit is to have a lawyer you trust on retainer. If you’re looking to find a lawyer after you’ve already been hit with a lawsuit, it can be difficult to find a reputable one. Instead, you’ll want to do your due diligence in advance in order to find a lawyer who is qualified and experienced in small business lawsuit cases. This might require paying a monthly fee so that when you do call, your retained counsel will pick up the phone.
How to handle things if your business is sued.
First, realize that just because you receive a letter from a lawyer does not necessarily mean you have a lawsuit. In other words, the first step is figuring out if you are actually being sued. Lawyers typically issue you what is called a “Demand Letter” or “Cease and Desist Letter” before a lawsuit. This letter will usually provide some of the facts (from their side), their demands, and the consequences of not heeding their demands. They are generally seriously phrased and official looking. If this is what you received from a lawyer or law firm, you haven’t been sued quite yet. But it’s best to reach out to attorney as early as possible.
But if your small business is hit with a lawsuit, your immediate first call should usually be to your lawyer, hopefully one who understand you and your company. As long as you trust your lawyer (and, if you don’t, it’s a definite sing you need a new one), allow him or her to guide you throughout the process and give careful consideration to any advice he or she provides. Remember there’s no point trying to cover anything up, as dishonesty will only hurt your defense. Be honest with your lawyer about the allegations and stick to the facts. Your attorney is there to help you win the case, not to judge you.
Following your lawyer, your second call should usually go to your insurance company so they know the situation and are put on notice. Read your policy carefully regularly so you know the correct steps to take so you don’t waive coverage. Hopefully, they will confirm that your general liability insurance will help protect you both for attorneys’ fees and money damages.
While it is true that all lawsuits are created equal, it is, however, fairly common for a settlement to be the best course of action for a small business owner. Winning a case could be more expensive than settling, so don’t let pride affect your decision-making. Alternate dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation or arbitration, can be a viable way to resolve issues while avoiding the costs of trial provided both parties agree to it. Ahead of time, you can also write provisions into your contracts that require disagreements to be solved through binding arbitration—almost eliminating the chance of going to trial. Because once you step into a courtroom, the legal fees will start to increase significantly and there is more risk that a judge or jury will not decide in your favor. And even if you’re not at fault for anything, the cost of going to court can put a financial strain on your business both in terms of financing litigation and opportunity cost of being away from running your business.
After the lawsuit is over.
Once the lawsuit is settled, consider taking a closer look at how to avoid this type of litigation in the future. You may want to review the reasons why this lawsuit happened so you can take steps on how to prevent future lawsuits. Think about your business in the long term. Because even if you didn’t do anything wrong, making a few adjustments to avoid additional litigation should be well worth it.
With so many young people buried under student loans, unemployed, or underemployed, it’s no wonder that millions of Americans are struggling with debt, especially credit card debt. Many companies specifically target those just starting out with high interest cards with unfair or abusive terms with hidden fees. It’s difficult to stay current on these types of cards, and the credit companies begin their aggressive collections much to your dismay.
But there is hope. The credit card companies simply can’t have their way with you. Instead, there are a number of laws that protect you as a consumer. Below is a brief overview. Be sure to consult with an attorney during every step of your debt defense journey.
Statute of limitations.
Some debts are simply too old to be enforced. The time a creditor has to file suit against you is limited by law in each state. In most states, it is anywhere from three to six years. The time starts running from the last date you make a payment. If the statute in your state is three years and you haven’t made a payment in two years, a payment to a debt collector who is quite literally on your case will start the time running all over again.
Federal law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that governs all actions that can be taken to collect debts. A “debt collector” is defined broadly to include anyone (including attorneys) who reach out to you when a payment is late or missing. The law requires any debt collector to provide you with a validation of the debt upon request and to stop collection activities until they comply. It also prohibits certain activities such as threatening to sue on a debt that is outside the limitations period.
Remember that if a lawsuit has been filed against you, you can assert FDCPA violations as a countersuit or to set off the amount due. You can recover actual damages, attorney’s fees, and additional damages of up to $1,000 per violations if the violations are found to have taken place.
Lack of Standing
This is a fancy legal term for saying that a creditor can only sue you if it has a relationship to you. Because Credit card companies often sell bad debt to debt purchasers. If the party that sues you is not the original creditor, and you assert lack of standing as a defense, then it will have to prove that it has the right to sue you. Often these debt purchasers will attach bills of sale or other documents to the suit which show that it bought debt from your creditor – but not that it bought your particular account. If you assert lack of standing, the debt purchaser must show proof that your account was one of those that it did purchase.
This may sound easy, but in reality, it is not because the debt is often sold more than once. When this happens the current debt owner may have trouble getting documentation that is sufficient to meet the proof requirements of the court. Much of this debt is transferred using computer generated lists without signatures nor affidavits, completely in violation of debt collection law. Once the debt has been transferred to two or three different entities, the original creditor often will not supply any further information. If this is the case, it may make it difficult for the creditor to meet the proof requirements of the court. This generally requires that the creditor have a witness that can testify as to the accuracy of the business records (at the time they were made) from personal knowledge.
File For Bankruptcy
While bankruptcy usually doesn’t make sense when you just owe a small amount of money, if you’re being sued over a large debt or if it is just one of many other debts you owe, it may make sense to file for bankruptcy. When you do, you will be protected by the “automatic stay,” which will halt collection efforts against you.
As always, if you are thinking about bankruptcy, it’s best to talk with an attorney as soon as you are served with notice of a creditor’s lawsuit, rather than waiting until the day you’re due in court.
Tips Going Forward
While dealing with a debt collection lawsuit, it’s still important to keep an eye on your credit scores and to periodically check your credit reports. Though your credit has taken a hit, watching your credit can alert you to new potential problems that you can work to resolve before they become bigger problems. You’re entitled to your free annual credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies, and you can monitor your credit score online for free.