Most people have heard of the legal concept of “slander,” but they may not understand the distinction between slander and other kinds of character defamation.
Defamation of character happens when someone's reputation is harmed because of another party’s fraudulent statements or actions. Slander is only one type of defamation of character.
If someone has tarnished your reputation with false statements, you deserve justice. Although you might know that you have been defamed, you may not understand what is considered slander.
After an instance of defamation, speak with a trustworthy legal professional. You should not have to suffer the damage that misleading statements can cause.
Reach out to the skilled team at Morgan & Morgan. Our attorneys will happily assess the facts of your case and help you to find the best path forward. Complete the contact form on the Morgan & Morgan website and we will schedule a free consultation to discuss your defamation claim.
Understanding Defamation of Character
When someone spreads damaging, false information about another person, they have committed defamation.
Defamation of character can have significant consequences for the victim’s professional and personal life.
Misleading statements can cause harm to the victim's reputation as an employee, business owner, or community member. Defamation of character can lead to reduced professional opportunities, lost income, and ostracization.
Not every negative statement qualifies as defamation. To qualify, the statements in question must be presented as fact and be harmful to the victim.
Stating a negative opinion is not the same as defaming someone's character. This is an important distinction because freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Defamation laws are only intended to protect people’s reputations, finances, and careers from harmful and false statements. This type of important protection is balanced against the need to ensure freedom of speech.
Because of the potential for harm, a defamation of character lawsuit is meant to compensate the victim for the losses they sustained. Not every type of harm involves tangible or physical damage.
There are two primary categories of defamation of character. These categories are “slander” and “libel.”
Below, we will discuss the legal elements of both types of defamation. If your character has been tarnished because of defamatory statements, you may wonder what is considered slander.
Contacting the skilled defamation attorneys at Morgan & Morgan can ensure that you have the best chance of recovering the money you deserve. Do not allow someone's harmful statements to ruin your professional or personal reputation.
If the person who made the harmful statement can prove that their statement was true, there won’t be any grounds for a defamation lawsuit. It is legal to tell the truth, no matter how harmful it may be to someone's reputation.
When they are considering whether a statement qualifies as a protected opinion, the courts rely on several criteria. Many times, the courts will consider questions like the following:
- Did the statement involve figurative or hyperbolic language?
- What was the broader context of the statement?
- Does the context suggest that the statement is an opinion?
In a defamation case, the courts will determine whether the harmful statements can be proven to be true or false. If a statement is neither true nor false—like an opinion—there are no grounds for a defamation claim.
What Is Considered Slander?
Before the invention of broadcast media, there was only written and spoken communication. Defamation laws still reflect this older dichotomy.
When defamatory statements are spoken, the speaker has committed slander.
The rise of many types of media makes it difficult to categorize some instances of defamation. For example, does spoken defamation on television count as slander? No.
So what is considered slander? In general, slander applies to spoken defamations overheard by a small number of people.
If you are wondering whether your case qualifies as slander, consult with an experienced legal professional. Oftentimes, a judge or jury will decide how to categorize specific examples of defamation.
There are two main categories of slander. These are slander and slander per se.
To prove slander, the claimant must show that the defendant made defamatory statements to a third party. In other words, someone other than the speaker and the subject must have heard the defamatory statements.
Also, the plaintiff must prove that they sustained damages because of the statements. Typically, these damages are “economic,” which means that they represent direct monetary losses.
Slander per se does not require the claimant to prove that they are owed economic damages. The law presumes that certain types of defamatory speech are harmful.
Because of this, plaintiffs in slander per se cases are presumed to have sustained harm. The categories of defamation that qualify as slander per se vary from state to state.
The most common examples of slander per se are:
- Accusing the plaintiff of criminal actions
- Stating that the plaintiff has certain infectious diseases
- Making harmful statements about the plaintiff’s business or occupation
In any of these cases, the plaintiff needs to prove that the speaker made false harmful statements to a third party. They do not need to prove that they sustained monetary losses.
What Is Considered Libel?
Claims of libel are very similar to slander claims. The main distinction is that libel is the name for “published” defamatory statements.
In the past, libel laws were meant to protect against written defamation. But with the advent of television, radio, and the internet, there are many ways to publish defamatory statements.
For a successful defamation claim, victims of libel need to prove the following:
- The responsible party published untrue damaging statements about the plaintiff
- Others were exposed to these harmful statements
The law does not require a victim of libel to prove more than this. When a defamatory statement has been published, it is likely to remain publicly available for a long time.
What Is a “Published” Statement?
Because there are so many types of media, it can be difficult to know when a statement has been published. When some communication has been read, heard, or seen by a third party, it qualifies as a “published” statement.
A statement does not need to be distributed in print to qualify. Statements made on television can qualify as libel, as well.
Statements made in publicly available internet spaces may count. Even a message written across someone's door may be considered to be “published.”
Publishing is the primary difference between what is considered to be libel and what is considered slander.
Damages and Financial Compensation in Defamation Cases
If you were the victim of harmful untrue statements, do not hesitate. You may have grounds for a valid defamation of character lawsuit.
An accomplished slander attorney can help you recover the money that is rightfully yours. There are several types of financial damages available to victims of defamation.
This category of damages is intended to compensate the plaintiff for specific monetary losses. Actual damages will include any financial costs the victim sustained.
Because defamation can be professionally damaging, victims often experience financial losses related to their:
- Business prospects
- Trade opportunities
- And more
Some defamation victims lose the ability to earn income because of the harmful statements in question. Losing a job or seeing a significant drop in business can each qualify for actual damages.
Presumed damages are mostly applicable in slander per se cases. According to the law, certain types of published defamation are assumed to be damaging.
Presumed damages are usually not available to victims of typical slander. Only defamatory statements that are presumed to result in harm qualify the victim for presumed damages.
This type of compensation can be very low, in some cases. There is no minimum amount of presumed damages in a defamation case.
This type of financial recovery is not intended to compensate the victim for the harm they suffered. Instead, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant.
This category of damages is only applicable in cases involving particularly appalling conduct. Punitive damages are meant to deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
If you or someone you love has suffered because of definitory statements, do not hesitate. One of the compassionate defamation lawyers at Morgan & Morgan can help you pursue financial compensation.
We believe that all victims deserve justice for the losses they’ve sustained. Our team works tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients.