Defamation, Libel and Slander Lawsuits

You can file a defamation, libel and/or slander lawsuit. Defamation is not a crime, but it is a civil wrong. The victim is within their rights to sue the person who did the defaming for damages. Defamation can take two forms: libel and slander. Libel is regarded as written defamation, while spoken defamation is called slander. Learn more about defamation laws in our legal guide below, then get quotes on fees from attorneys in your area.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Overview

  • Defamation-libel constitutes that the defamation was through writing or words placed on pictures
  • Defamation-slander constitutes that the defamation was through spoken words or gestures
  • There are three parts to proving defamation occurred:
    • Proof that the statement was indeed false
    • had consequences that harmed you, and was made without ensuring the statement was true.

If you meet the requirements for a civil action, you can sue someone for defamation, whether libel or slander, if they have written or said something bad about you. However, you must be able to prove the necessary elements of a defamation suit if you wish to collect damages.

Read further to find out what to do when someone is slandering you. If you need to consult with an attorney and find out if you can sue someone for talking bad about you on the internet, just enter your ZIP code below.

How Do You Prove Defamation in a Lawsuit?

What are the differences between defamation, libel, and slander? Now that we know a little more about it, the next step is finding out how you present your case.

There are two types of defamation, which are generally referred to as libel and slander. Libel is defined as a defamation of a person, group, organization, product, government, or country that was made by writing or printing words or in pictures. Typically, defamation is easier to prove because you have written proof. Depending on the source, you’ll just need to prove it came from the accused.

Then what is slander, and how is it different than libel? To understand, you will need the slander definition. Slander is the same thing, except the defamatory statement was made in the form of spoken words, sounds, sign language, or gestures. This is much harder to prove. Even when there are witnesses, they’re often unwilling to assist with any legal action. In some cases, it may be because they believe the statements may be true. In many cases, they just don’t want to get involved which creates an uphill battle for a law firm.

Constitution Annotated, whose parent site is congress.gov, provided more background on defamation and references example cases from various states.

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What are some examples of defamation?

What does defamation look like in real life? In short, it’s not just a negative comment. So if someone says your haircut is ugly, it’s not defamation. It has to be demonstrably wrong and measurably harmful.

  • Suppose you have a blog or produce other online content and write that someone hit his wife two weeks ago. If this statement is not true, it is called a defamatory statement. If it impacts his reputation, earning ability, etc. in a measurable way, you could be liable for damages.
  • Another example could include a person who writes on someone else’s Facebook page that another person was fired from her job because she made a serious mistake. If, as a result, she or her company lost an important client, this would create measurably monetary damages. If this is a false statement, it is certainly an example of a defamatory statement.

What are possible reasons for a defamation lawsuit?

Can you sue someone for slandering your name? 

You may be able to sue for defamation if:

  • False statements were made as if they were true
  • The untrue statement caused measurable damages. Unfortunately, emotional distress is not necessarily measurable on a monetary basis

Common examples of defamation include statements that a victim:

  • Had a sexually transmitted or other loathsome diseases.
  • Was guilty of sexual misconduct.
  • Committed a crime.
  • Was not fit to run a business.

How can you win your defamation case?

So what does it mean to sue for defamation? How do you win a defamation case? Filing a lawsuit is one thing, but winning it and being awarded punitive damages is another. To prove that defamation has occurred, you would have to:

  1. First, prove that the statement was indeed false. Truth is an absolute defense in a defamation or slander lawsuit
  2. Next, you have to show that the statement had consequences that harmed you
  3. Then, you have to prove that the person making the statement did not ensure that it was a true statement

If you are a well-known public figure or celebrity, you may have proof that the statement was made with actual malice. This means it must have been made with reckless disregard for the truth, and with the intention of doing harm to you.

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Is it worth suing for defamation of character?

If you wish to file a civil lawsuit for defamation of character, it is a good idea to contact an attorney to assist you with gathering the appropriate evidence and making your claim. A defamation law firm or attorney can review the facts of your case and see if it’s worth moving forward.

Your defamation lawyer can also advise you about defamation law, evidence rules, the statute of limitations, factors that may affect the case, and your chance of success with your defamation claim. Especially if you have a valid claim, the process can be extremely stressful. Libel laws are not always made to make the truth easy to find. Even if you have a strong case, it can be an emotional process. A personal injury attorney can keep things moving and deal with the legal aspects to minimize complications you don’t have to face.

When it comes to lawsuits, an action for defamation can be very challenging, so it might be better if you find out the defamation lawsuit costs in advance. To get free quotes on defamation lawsuit fees, enter your ZIP code below to start comparing firms.

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