One of our most treasured freedoms in this country is free speech. Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, including the spoken and written word. However, making false statements is different. Communicating untrue and damaging written or verbal comments about another, harming their reputation or business, could give the victim grounds for filing a lawsuit.
If another person spreads false statements about you or your business, you could potentially sue them for oral defamation or libel. Our experienced attorneys could help you move forward with a legal case and fight to clear your name. You could recover compensation for your financial losses and other damages. Contact us now for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights.
What Is Oral Defamation vs. Libel?
An oral defamation is also called slander. Slander and libel both fall under the same legal context, so-called “defamation law.” Defamation law generally deals with false statements that harm an individual’s reputation. Oral defamation and libel are both types of defamatory statements. However, there are some important differences between the two.
According to the Legal Information Institute (LII), libel is a defamatory statement that can be printed, written, a picture or sign, an effigy, or any other type of communication expressed in physical form. The physical comment must be false and harm a person’s private life or business, or expose them to public hatred, ridicule, or contempt. Commonly filed libel lawsuits include news stories alleging:
- Crime or fraud
- Dishonorable conduct
Individuals can also file lawsuits when defamed professionally and suffering financial, personal, or business losses. For example, referring to someone as a murderer, thief, sexual offender, or drug abuser can be grounds for a libel case.
Oral Defamation or Slander
Slander describes an oral defamatory statement made by one party against another. Slander is the verbal act of harming an individual’s private or business reputation by spreading a false statement. It is important to note that slander does not occur if the person making the statement and the subject are alone during the verbal exchange. To have a case, a third party must hear the defamatory comment. Employers, former employees, and business competitors frequently become a target for oral defamation.
Defamation Per Se
False statements qualify as defamation per se if they are “inherently ruinous” to a person’s reputation. In cases of defamation per se, a plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) generally does not need to prove their damages and could automatically qualify for compensation. The LII names various examples of defamation per se, including:
- Making a false statement relating to a person’s profession or business
- Falsely alleging that a person committed a crime of moral turpitude
- Accusing a person of unchastity
- Claiming that a person suffers from a loathsome disease such as an STD
If someone defamed you, whether orally or in writing, consider consulting with our experienced defamation attorneys before your business or home life suffers irreparable damage.
How to Prove a Defamation Lawsuit
State laws concerning defamation lawsuits can vary. In general, you must prove that the injurious statement was published (written or verbally), false, damaging, and unprivileged to have a case.
1. The Defamatory Statement Was Published
A published statement can be written, pictured, or spoken. “Published” in the context of defamation does not necessarily refer to a published book or magazine but can describe all potential ways a third party could read or hear the defamatory statement. Of course, defamatory comments could also be printed in magazines, newspapers, or books.
2. The Statement Is False
A true statement or an opinion would not qualify you for filing a defamation lawsuit against another. To have a case, the communication must be false and damaging.
3. The Statement Is Damaging
The only time a victim does not have to prove damages is when the defamatory statement is considered “defamation per se.” However, plaintiffs have to show that they were damaged financially or otherwise in all other cases. Examples of actual damages can include:
- Losing business revenue or clients
- Losing a job and benefits
- Harassment by local or national media
- Suffering humiliation
4. The Statement Is Unprivileged
Statements made under privilege are protected from defamation lawsuits and can include:
- Witness testimony in court
- Attorney and client communication
- Communication between spouses
If you are unsure whether you are the victim of oral defamation or libel, get in touch with us. We can determine your next best steps if you qualify for a lawsuit.
Proving Oral Defamation vs. Libel
Libel is often considered more harmful than oral defamation and can be easier to prove. Written and printed statements can potentially last forever. Courts typically only consider oral defamation lawsuits if the plaintiff can prove actual damages. On the other hand, with libel, the act of the written publication itself can be regarded as injurious, and a plaintiff may not have to prove actual damages to have a case.
Damages for Oral Defamation and Libel
You could qualify for economic and non-economic damages if you suffered damages due to the defamation.
If you win your defamation lawsuit, you could receive:
A plaintiff prevailing in a defamation suit could receive lost income, future lost earning capacity, and compensation for other economic and business opportunities lost as a result of the defamation. If a company is affected, the plaintiff could claim loss of clients or expected loss of future clients and business revenue due to spreading false information. Damages for lost income can also include:
- Employment benefits (health and dental insurance)
- Vacation time
- 401k contributions
The consequences of defamation can be extremely upsetting and stressful. If the victim sought medical help or counseling due to the defamatory statements, they could recover those costs with a lawsuit.
Victims of defamation could also recover non-economic damages for the pain and suffering they experienced, which can include awards for:
- Mental distress
- Loss of life quality
It is important to note that non-economic damages are not available in all states.
Your Next Best Steps After Experiencing Oral Defamation or Libel
If you are a victim of damaging defamation, consider taking these steps to preserve your legal rights and collect critical evidence:
- Note the time and date of the defamatory statement
- Write down the contact details of any witnesses
- Gather evidence of your damages such as counseling costs, income losses, and others
- Call a defamation attorney
If you experienced character assassination, the experienced and committed defamation attorneys at Morgan & Morgan could help you fight for justice and compensation.
Morgan & Morgan Can Help to Clear Your Name
Defamation can be upsetting, and you may not know where to turn to get justice. Morgan & Morgan can be here for you and help restore your good reputation. Our defamation lawyers have helped numerous other defamed clients and can handle all aspects of your case, including:
- Determine whether you have a case
- Identify all liable parties
- Gather crucial evidence for proving slander or libel
- File your lawsuit and the necessary paperwork
- Negotiate an out-of-court settlement
- Fight for full and fair compensation at trial
When you get America’s largest personal injury firm on your side, you also get an army of lawyers, investigators, and legal team members who want nothing more than to help you get justice.