Any comment that harms someone’s reputation is referred to as “defamation of character,” which makes suing in states like California, Texas, or NY possible. Written defamation is referred to as “libel,” while spoken defamation is referred to as “slander.” Basically, defamation is a “tort” rather than a crime (a civil wrong, rather than a criminal wrong). A person who has been defamed might seek damages from the person who defamed them. This covers all you should know before suing someone for defamation.
Suing for Defamation of Character: Overview
For the most part, defamation law attempts to strike a balance between competing interests: On the one hand, people should not damage the lives of others by spreading lies about them; on the other hand, people should be able to talk freely without fear of being sued for every insult, disagreement, or error. In a free society, political and social disagreement is necessary, and we certainly do not all hold the same views or beliefs. Political opponents, for example, may draw opposing conclusions from the same facts, while editorial cartoonists frequently exaggerate facts to emphasize their points.
Character Defamation in Different Forms
Slander and libel are the two main types of character defamation. Slander is the term used to describe verbal defamation of character. Libel occurs when someone is falsely accused in writing.
The laws governing defamation are intended to strike a balance between competing interests. No one should spread lies or misinformation that could lead to someone’s death.
At the same time, citizens have the right to free speech. They should be able to talk freely without fear of legal repercussions if they disagree, insult, or make a mistake.
It is critical in a free society for people to be able to disagree politically, culturally, and socially. After all, not everyone shares the same ideals or ideas.
For instance, you have complete freedom to form your own unique opinions based on facts. Other forms of speech, such as satire and exaggeration, are also protected.
If you’re wondering how much you can claim for defamation of character, it’s important to know what constitutes defamatory statements. We will look at that shortly.
Suing for Defamation of Character: What Does It Take to File a Lawsuit?
It might be tough to know what you can and cannot say, and what your rights are when it comes to what people say about you, with all the talk about snowflakes, freedom of speech, hate speech, and so on. These days, even mentioning the weather seems to irritate someone. But when does an offense become defamation? When is it appropriate to sue someone for damaging your reputation with their words? While state laws differ, there are some general rules for determining when to sue someone for defamation of character.
Elements of a Defamation of Character Lawsuit
Defamation is only penalized as a civil offence, not as a criminal offense. To know when to file a defamation lawsuit, you must first understand the elements of the cause of action. Again, the wording differs by state, but generally speaking, to prove defamation, you must show:
- Someone made a false statement about you;
- The statement was verbally (slander) or in writing (libel) communicated to a third party;
- The statement caused you harm
What is a Defamation Case?
Defamation injury, unlike the bruise or broken bone that comes with a battery claim, might be more difficult to prove. However, you must establish that the statement harmed your professional or personal reputation. If you own a business, you will have demonstrate how the claims have harmed your bottom line. Alternatively, if the words were so upsetting that they created health issues, there can be evidence of harm. Also, some remarks, such as claims of sexual misconduct, criminal activity, or having an STD, are deemed to be defamatory.
Truth as a Weapon of Defense
The inaccuracy of the statement is another key piece of the defamation puzzle. If something is spoken or written about you that seriously harms your reputation, it will not be considered defamatory if it is true or valid. Telling people that your business gave customers food poisoning, for example, is not defamatory if it’s a matter-of-fact. Statements of opinion, such as “your restaurant’s cuisine tastes terrible,” are not defamatory.
False Light and Defamation
Defamation is frequently mistaken with “false light” claims. While they are quite similar, defamation entails injury to one’s reputation, whereas false light involves unpleasant or embarrassing words. Also, although false light requires you to prove reckless contempt when the subject is a public figure, defamation merely requires you to prove reckless disregard when the subject is not.
Proving a defamation lawsuit involves several complexities. So, whether you’ve been hurt by someone else’s remarks or you’ve been accused of making defamatory statements, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer who has dealt with similar cases.
Suing for Defamation of Character: Conditions Required to Prove Defamation
State rules on suing for defamation of character differ. However, some slander and libel regulations are widely accepted. Consult an attorney if you suspect you have been the victim of defamation.
A knowledgeable defamation lawyer will examine the facts of your case. They will build the strongest case possible to prove that you were falsely accused.
So, how much can you sue for character defamation? The solution will be determined by the evidence provided.
To build a compelling case, you’ll need to show that there was a statement that goes like this:
A “statement” is any verbal, visual, written, or gestural communication. Defamation cases are not limited to the use of words.
All of the above criteria must be present in a defamatory statement. A knowledgeable lawyer can explain how each of these criteria may apply to your defamation case.
We’ll go through each of these four factors in more depth below.
#1. False Information
Even if someone makes a false remark about you, it is not defamatory if the statement is accurate. To put it another way, factual statements cannot be used to defame someone’s character.
Just because something is cruel, harsh, or offensive does not make it defamatory. As a result, a majority of statements of opinion are not defamatory. Unlike provable facts, opinions are based on perception.
To seek libel or slander damages, you must show that the remark in question is objectively false.
Consider the following illustration. When a media commentator calls a politician “the least competent public servant I have ever seen,” he or she is not disparaging the individual. Rather, they are expressing a viewpoint. Opinions cannot be proven to be incorrect.
#2. Defamatory Remarks
A comment must be harmful to be classified as defamatory. The goal of a defamation of character lawsuit is to show that the statement in question caused the victim harm.
In a defamation case, the plaintiff must show that the false statement harmed their reputation. Following a defamatory statement, some forms of damage include:
- Work squandered
- Other people’s rejection
- Being rejected by family or friends
- Being hounded by the press
In a defamation case, the victim’s reputation is crucial. If the individual who was defamed already had a bad reputation, the settlement or verdict may not provide as much compensation.
#3. Public Statements
The term “published” in this case simply means that a third person witnessed or heard the message being communicated.
In other words, someone besides the person making the statement and the topic of the statement was aware of the communication.
In daily usage, “published” usually refers to material that has been printed or broadcasted. Speech delivered in any of the following ways qualifies as being published in defamation cases:
- The internet
- Books Newspapers Magazines Radio Books
- TV gossip and more
If a third party overhears a loud conversation in public, it may be considered a published statement.
Defamation entails injury to the victim’s reputation, which is why a remark must be published to be defamatory. The message cannot be private in order to harm the person’s reputation.
#4. Unprivileged Remarks
You may not be allowed to sue in some cases, even if the offending comment was untrue and harmful. A person cannot be sued for defamation if they give false testimony in a courtroom or during a deposition.
It is, nevertheless, illegal to willfully give false testimony. Speech in these conditions is classified as “privileged” under the law. This is to ensure that those giving testimony do not feel compelled to censor themselves out of fear of being sued.
When people make statements in court, legislative chambers, or through official publications, they are not at risk of defamation of character claims.
How Much Can You Sue for Character Defamation Damages?
To accurately determine the worth of your defamation lawsuit, you should speak with a legal specialist.
In most cases, the victim will need to show that they were harmed in some way in order to receive financial compensation. For example, the victim may have suffered the following as a result of the defamatory statement:
- A financial loss
- A drop in earnings
- A soiled reputation
Assume a real estate agent loses clients as a result of defamatory claims made by others. They may be able to sue for the commissions they lost from clients who choose to work with others in this case.
So, how much can you sue for character defamation? It will depend on the amount of financial harm you can prove.
The severity of the defamatory statement will also have an impact on the worth of your case. The best method to get the money you deserve is to speak with an experienced defamation lawyer.
Suing for Defamation of Character: Common Damages
Actual and general damages are the two most familiar types of damages in defamation cases.
#1. Actual Losses
This is a kind of compensation is designed to reimburse the victim for the financial losses incurred as a result of the defamation. Actual damages can be converted into a monetary sum.
Actual damages include the following:
- Wages lost or missed
- Reduced earning potential
- Lost business opportunities
In a defamation case, a qualified attorney can evaluate the value of actual damages. This usually entails calculating the monetary value of missed labor or opportunities from the time of the offending statement forward.
MeanwhileProving a decline in earning capacity is more difficult. Many lawyers rely on expert testimony to do this. An expert can estimate how much employment or money the plaintiff could have gotten if the defamation hadn’t happened.
#2. General Damages
The purpose of this category of damages is to compensate the sufferer for non-monetary losses.
Victims are not just financially harmed by defamatory words. The victim’s reputation and social position are also harmed by these misleading claims.
The following are some examples of general damages:
- Anguish of mind
- Suffering and pain
- Humiliation and Shame
- Ostracization and Disgrace
The judge or jury will determine the amount of general damages in a specific case. As a result, it is critical to retain the services of an experienced attorney who will aggressively pursue maximum damages in your case.
Suing for Defamation of Character: Types of Defamation Lawsuits
As earlier mentioned, there are two major types. Below is an overview of what both entails with examples.
Slander: Spoken Defamation
Slander is a remark made about you that is false. A slanderous comment is one that is made about you by an individual or a radio, television, or podcast announcer.
Slander Case Study
Assume you’ve applied for a job. When your prospective employer contacted your references, your old employer stated that you were fired for falsifying time cards. That statement is obviously false. You’ve never cheated on your time cards. As a result, you were not hired.
This is defamatory. Your old employer made a misleading statement to your potential employer verbally. You were harmed because you were unable to find new employment.
Libel: Written Defamation
Libel is a false assertion made about you in writing that can appear in print, emails, social media, images, videos, or other visual information. Libelous are memes and cartoons that show dangerous untrue statements.
Libel Case Study
You applied for another position. By email, this potential employer examined your references. Your old employer responded by email, stating that you were sacked for falsifying time cards.
This is defamatory. By email, your old employer made a misleading statement to your potential employer. You were harmed because you did not receive the job.
In these scenarios, you may easily establish you didn’t falsify your time cards by gaining evidence from other employees that you were at work at the needed times, or by acquiring security film footage or other records from your previous company that you were there.
Proving you didn’t receive the new job because of your old employer’s fraudulent assertion, on the other hand, may be far more difficult. To establish the required harm, you must link the false accusation regarding the time cards to your failure to obtain the new position.
In Conclusion: Why Hire a Defamation Attorney?
It’s very impossible to undo the first shock and humiliation caused by attacks on your persona, but you can take precautions to safeguard yourself.
It’s rare for someone to acknowledge to making defamatory claims, and even if they do, it’s doubtful that they’ll publicly correct the record or compensate you fairly for your losses.
You’ll need experienced legal assistance if you want or need more than a token apology. Don’t waste time. The time restriction for filing a slander action varies from state to state. Depending on your jurisdiction and the type of defamation case, defamation deadlines might range from six months to three years.
A civil litigation verdict against the party who made the false statement against you can help you get your business and personal reputation back on track.
Defamation lawyers are familiar with the legal ramifications of libel and slander. Your lawyer can take depositions, subpoena documents and computer files, investigate the defamer, and document the special damages you have suffered.
Allow no malicious liar to get the final say. Most personal injury lawyers provide free consultations to defamation victims.