Defamation is a legal concept that involves having your reputation harmed by false statements. It is a civil wrong not a criminal wrong, so if you believe you have a defamation case against someone, you must file a civil lawsuit. This article focuses on some of the key aspects of defamation.
Defamation cases generally fall into two categories: libel and slander. Libel occurs when someone has made an untrue and harmful statement about you through physical media. The statement can be either written or broadcast. For instance, a defamatory statement occurring in a magazine or book is an example of libel and a defamatory statement that occurs on any broadcast, such as a news program on television, is considered libel as well.
Slander is different from Iibel because it is an oral defamatory statement. It typically involves negative statements made about a person to a third party or a gathering of people.
Certain elements must be present for a defamation lawsuit to be considered valid. The defamatory statement must be untrue and communicated to a third party or third parties. Also, the person making the negative statement must have acted in a negligent manner by not bothering to determine if the statement was true or not caring if the statement was true. Typically, the plaintiff in a defamation case must show that they were damaged or harmed by the false statement. Although these four elements are generally required in defamation cases, the laws may vary somewhat from state to state.
Defendants have a variety of defenses in defamation suits. The truth is an absolute defense. If the defendant can prove that the defamatory statement is accurate, the lawsuit will not be successful. Another possible defense is that the statement in question was just an opinion rather than a statement of fact. Opinions, even very negative opinions, are not considered actionable.
Privilege is also a defense in these cases. Privilege means that some statements cannot be challenged in a defamation suit because of the circumstances surrounding their transmission. Examples of privilege include statements made during court proceedings, by legislators while debating a piece of legislation, and between married couples.
Defamation law is quite complex and a layman will simply not be able to win this type of case without expert assistance. If you believe that you have a defamation case against someone, the first step is to consult with a law firm that specializes in these lawsuits.