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Have You Suffered from Defamation?

Seek Legal Advice from a Defamation Attorney

Injuries are not always physical. Injuries to a person’s reputation and character can have far-reaching effects in regards to a person’s emotional health and even their personal and professional reputation. While people in the United States have a right to freedom of speech, a person also has the right to protect one’s reputation; thus, defamation cases occur when someone says or publishes false and malicious comments about another person.

Defamation claims often stem from statements another person makes which cause scorn or disgrace to the victim. While defaming comments are made every day, it is rare for someone to pursue a defamation case, primarily because this type of case can be difficult to prove.

To prove that a comment or published content was not defamatory, all the accused has to do is one or more of these three things:

  1. Prove that the statement is true.
  2. Show how they had a duty to provide the information, such as in a judicial proceeding.
  3. Claim to be expressing an opinion.

With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why it can be difficult to make a defamation accusation stick. Many defamation cases do not make it to court for this and similar reasons, and are often either settled outside of court, or dropped when the victim gives up. Due to the low number of defamation cases that actually make it to trial, there are not a lot of statistics to refer to in these cases. The defamation cases that do make it to court and are not thrown out can result in monetary damages or a public apology.

What are the Facts About Defamation?

The most important thing to remember when pursuing a defamation case is that the claims must be false to be eligible for legal recourse, and that the speaker must have made the claims with malicious intent. Spoken defamation is called slander. Defamation that is published is called libel, and published works can include pictures in addition to words. For a statement to be considered legitimately defamatory, it must have been made to a third party.

Let’s go over some more important facts on defamation:

  • In order to win a defamation lawsuit, the victim must prove that the defendant negligently or intentionally spread a false statement about them and that this defamation resulted in material harm to the plaintiff.
  • The United States has a specific law governing online defamation which can be found in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This statute absolves Internet service providers (hosting companies, websites, developers, etc.) of defamation liability over user comments and content.
  • There are some common defenses people use in response to being accused of defamation. These may include the following: opinion, truth/falsity, privilege, wire service defense, libel-proof plaintiff doctrine, and consent.

Defaming a Private VS Public Figure.

The litigation process for defamation can be complicated due to the intangible nature that goes into proving intention or negligence in the act of defamation. There are generally few parties involved in defamation cases—usually just the victim and the defendant. In defamation cases, the circumstances of the case depend primarily on whether the person defamed is a private or public figure.

  • Private figures. According to most states, if the person defamed was a private citizen, the defendant accused of defaming that person can only be held liable if the plaintiff proves the defamation was due to negligence or intention. This means that the victim of defamation must prove the defendant knew the statement was false or could be defamatory, or acted recklessly with regard to the truth/falsity of the statement, neglecting to first ascertain its verity.
  • Public figures. If the person defamed was a public figure, the accused party must meet stricter standards regarding their motives while spreading the defamation. For example, if the person defamed was a public figure, the defendant can only be held liable for defamation if he/she knew that the statement they made was false, or if the defamation occurred as a result of acting with reckless disregard to the truth.

The key difference in building a defamation case for a private or public figure hinges on whether you only need to prove negligence (as is the case with the defamation of a private citizen), or whether you need to prove the defendant acted intentionally with malice or recklessly in regard to the truth (as is the case with the defamation of a public figure).

Do You Have a Claim for Defamation?

It can be difficult to figure out whether you have a claim for damages as a result of defamation. Due to the intangible nature of this type of claim, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice before you engage in what could be a lengthy and expensive legal process. Defamation damages are generally divided into four types, including presumed, special, actual, and punitive. The damages you may be eligible for compensation for are referred to as “compensatory damages”. In these cases, compensation may be sought for cases in which the defamation of the victim has caused tangible harm and suffering. In some places, mental anguish and humiliation qualify as compensatory damages, but the plaintiff must be able to prove either intentionality or negligence on behalf of the defendant.

Depending on the nature of your damages due to defamation, your lawyer may identify possible claims for:

  • Lost wages (or impairment of earning capacity) as a result of professional defamation.
  • Pain and suffering, for emotional distress.
  • Mental anguish and personal humiliation.

If you have suffered from defamation, you may benefit from contacting an attorney that understands the emotional and physical toll defamation can take on a victim’s reputation and how it affects their life. An experienced attorney will be aggressive in seeking the compensation that you deserve.

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