5 Signs That You May Have a Defamation Case
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Grant Lawson with Metier Law Firm.
Defamation claims are notoriously tricky to prove and litigate due to the nature of the damages that might not be immediately apparent, as well as the requirements that must be met to prove that a given statement or accusation is slander (spoken defamation) or libel (written defamation). To prove that a comment or published work is defamatory, the victim must be able to prove that the statement is not true and prove that it caused them some sort of tangible harm.
On the other side of the issue, the only thing the alleged perpetrator has to do to prove that they did not commit defamation is prove that their statement was true, prove that they had a duty to share the information, or claim that they were merely expressing an opinion. Faced with these challenges and the complicated nature of a defamation case, many people choose not to pursue a claim. However, if someone’s false statements about you have caused considerable harm to yourself, your reputation, or your livelihood, you may have a case to pursue.
5 signs that you may have a defamation case include:
- The defamation is public. Defamation that occurs in private is much harder to prove and in many cases results in damages that do not reach quite as far as public defamation. While private defamation may certainly be distressing, it is much harder to prove that defamation has occurred when only a few people are privy to it. Slander and libel generally occur in a public arena, such as on a public social media platform or the news, or for a collection of listeners, readers, or viewers, resulting in some kind of harm or damage to the victim, such as loss of customers, reputation, etc.
- The defamation caused monetary harm. If you experienced financial damage as a result of the defamation, this could indicate that you have a stronger defamation claim. For example, if someone is spreading untrue statements about a product that you or your company sell, and your profits are suffering as a result, this constitutes monetary harm. Lost wages and/or impairment of earning capacity if you are no longer able to make the same level of income as prior to the defamation may be claimed in situations where someone’s professional or public image took an unfair hit. Similarly, if someone had to miss work due to distress caused by the defamation or by attending court proceedings for their case, these damages may also be sought.
- The defamation caused documented emotional/psychological distress. The trouble with defamation is that it typically attacks the private life, feelings, and history of an individual person; this can result in severe emotional/psychological distress and a need for the victim to pursue ongoing mental health support. Cyberbullying is one of the big hot-button issues in regard to defamation cases, as it often does not result in direct monetary damage to the victim, but can still result in severe pain and suffering for the victim and potentially their family. In any defamation case where the victim suffers significant emotional/psychological distress as a result of the untrue statements, even if there is no direct monetary loss immediately apparent, it may be possible to file a claim against the perpetrator.
- The defamatory statement is false. A statement is not considered defamation if it is true, even if it does cause harm. While it’s certainly possible to harm people with the truth, in most cases a true statement does not meet the falsity requirement for a defamation claim to proceed. If the statement is true, the person responsible for it may also be able to argue that they felt they had a duty to share the truth for whatever reason.
- The defamatory statement was made with intent to cause harm. If you know for a fact that a defamatory statement was made about you with the specific intent to cause you or someone harm, this could indicate that you have a reasonably strong defamation claim. Whenever a defamatory statement arises from malicious intent or even negligence, the perpetrator may be considered responsible for any resulting damages in court.
To learn more about what constitutes defamation, or for help evaluating the potential of your own claim, reach out to an experienced defamation attorney in your area.