How Do You Fight A Malicious Lawsuit?

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Did someone wrongfully accuse you of a crime or civil negligence? If so, you may be able to file a countersuit on the basis of malicious prosecution. In these types of claims, if you faced a previous criminal charge or civil suit that arose from an illegitimate or ulterior motive, you can file your own claim against the plaintiff for damages. In a malicious lawsuit, the plaintiff becomes the defendant, and you become the plaintiff. Learn more about grounds for malicious lawsuits and if you might have a case.

The Elements of a Wrongful Prosecution Case

To file a claim on the basis of malicious prosecution, the following elements must apply:

  • The defendant you’re pursuing a case against began a criminal or civil proceeding against you
  • He or she lacked reasonable grounds for believing the allegations of that proceeding
  • The defendant acted with malice – i.e., with a motive other than receiving a judgment in a case
  • The defendant lost the case in which he or she was a plaintiff
  • You, as the new plaintiff, suffered damages resulting from the original case – i.e., damage to your reputation or quality of life.

What Are Some Examples of Malicious Prosecution?

Though all malicious prosecution cases have similar elements in common, it can be difficult to determine if you have a case without concrete examples. The following scenarios might give rise to a malicious prosecution claim:

  • A bank’s employees deliberately provide false information about a criminal case to a local prosecutor. The defendant accused of the bank crime filed a counter lawsuit against the bank for malicious prosecution.
  • A person accused another of stealing his or her personal property, leading to a subsequent arrest. At trial, the same person admits that he or she does not know for certain who stole the property. The criminal defendant now has possible grounds for wrongful arrest.
  • A police officer fabricated information when securing an arrest warrant for a person he or she believed to be a drug dealer. Without proper proof of illicit or illegal drug activity, the person accused may have been subject to illegal search and seizure and have grounds for a counter claim for damages.
  • A person filed a criminal affidavit against another individual, but he later revealed it was only to collect another debt from the defendant. Under the laws of malicious prosecution, the defendant would have viable grounds for a claim for civil damages.

When Do Grounds for Malicious Prosecution NOT Exist?

In some instances, you might not have valid grounds for a wrongful prosecution claim, even if another person made civil or criminal charges erroneously. Examples include:

  • If a plaintiff prevailed in the first lawsuit in which you were the defendant
  • The statute of limitations for a wrongful prosecution claim passed
  • The wrongful accusation against you came as a result of an honest mistake, not malicious intent.

What to Do If You Suspect Malicious Prosecution

If you stand wrongfully accused of a crime there are certain things you can do to protect your rights and eventual counter claim, if applicable. Take the following steps:

  • React rationally, not emotionally. It can be difficult to separate your feelings from the facts when you stand accused of something maliciously, but it’s essential to keep a calm head. Hire a good defense attorney and cooperate with the investigation under the guidance of your lawyer.
  • Begin the process of filing a counter claim. While defenses may require an attorney with experience in criminal law, your attorney for a counter claim should have experience with personal injury law. A lawyer can help hold the malicious party responsible for all the harms you suffered, including payment of your legal fees.

Malicious prosecution is a crime. If you were the defendant in a civil case based on malicious intent, you have legal options for recourse.