Defamation is one of the most complicated areas of personal injury law. Although you may be able to sue your former employer for defamation, it all depends on the context of the claims or statements made about you. Since defamation laws are complex, it's always advisable to work with an experienced defamation attorney from a reputable law firm like Morgan & Morgan, the largest personal injury law firm in the country.
But before we discuss how Morgan & Morgan defamation attorneys can help, let's first look at everything you need to know about defamation. We'll also discuss what counts as defamation, especially in the workplace, and what doesn't.
What Is Defamation?
The term “defamation” refers to a false statement made to damage an individual's reputation. Defamation comes in two main forms:
This refers to false statements made in writing about a particular individual or entity. You'll most likely find such statements in newspapers, magazines, emails, letters, text messages, etc.
Slander refers to a false verbal statement about an individual or entity to damage their reputation.
It should be noted that the key difference between libel and slander is that the former refers to a written statement while the latter refers to a spoken statement.
It is also worth noting that each state across the US has unique laws regarding such cases. However, in most states, when suing an individual or entity for defamation, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the statement:
- was false or negligent;
- harmed the plaintiff's reputation; and
- is not privileged, meaning the defendant had no legal right to make the statement.
Defamation cases are not usually the easiest to deal with. They involve a lot of twists and turns that only an experienced defamation attorney can help you navigate. Here are some of the key issues that arise from a defamation case.
Whether the Statement Was a Fact or Opinion
You may not be able to sue the other party if the statement they made was based on their opinion but not a fact. This further explains why defamation lawsuits are usually tightly contested. The plaintiff or their attorney must prove that the other party made a false statement of fact.
On the other hand, all the defendant has to do to avoid liability is to prove that they made the statement as an opinion but not a fact. This requirement applies even if the statement was harmful. Just as long as it was the defendant's opinion and not a fact, the plaintiff might not have any legal grounds to file a lawsuit.
Whether the Statement Damaged Your Reputation
For the statement to qualify as defamation, you must be able to prove that it hurt your reputation. However, in some cases, you don't even have to prove that the statement damaged your reputation. Such a scenario occurs mostly when the statement is so bad that the court automatically assumes it damaged your reputation.
For example, if someone wrongfully accuses you of sexual crimes, such a statement could ruin your reputation and career. The same applies to statements suggesting that you were or are involved in criminal activity. For such statements, you may not have to prove that they hurt your reputation. However, this primarily depends on the judge's decision.
Whether the Statement Is Considered a Privilege
There are two forms of privilege when then it comes to defamatory statements:
Having this kind of privilege means you can make any false or harmful statement without worrying about being sued. For example, politicians enjoy absolute privilege during campaigns. As a result, they can make statements about their opponents without being sued. The same privilege comes into play during legislative debates - politicians may not be sued for statements made in such environments.
Unlike absolute privilege, qualified privilege does not offer total protection against a defamation lawsuit. Instead, it provides protection up to a certain extent. For example, journalists and media houses enjoy a degree of qualified privilege when making certain statements.
This, however, does not mean that they should be reckless with their statements because they risk facing a defamation lawsuit. The main purpose of qualified privilege is to allow the privileged party or individual to do their jobs effectively.
For example, an investigative journalist can make certain statements about an individual or entity without risking a defamation lawsuit. In this case, the statement isn't made due to malice. Instead, it's made from the journalist's findings, even if the statements are not entirely true.
The Damages Caused by the Defamatory Remarks
Even if the statements against you are false, you must prove that they damaged your reputation. That's the only way you may be able to claim compensation for the damages caused. However, as mentioned before, some statements may be too damaging, thus no need to prove actual damages.