How Much Can You Sue for Defamation of Character?
Defamation of Character Lawsuit Process
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If someone has made a statement that hurts your reputation, you may have grounds to seek financial recovery. In these instances, you may file a “defamation of character” lawsuit.
Defamation of character does not qualify as a criminal offense. It is a tort or civil wrong. When a person has been defamed, they can pursue financial compensation for the associated damages.
Many of our clients ask, “How much can you sue for defamation of character?” If you find yourself wondering this, read on.
In this article, we will examine many common questions about defamation lawsuits. When you need attorneys with experience in all kinds of tort cases, contact Morgan & Morgan. Our accomplished legal team will work hard to secure maximum compensation in your case.
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Defamation of Character FAQs
Types of Defamation of Character
There are two primary types of defamation of character: Slander and libel. “Slander” is the name given to spoken defamation of character. When a person has been defamed in writing, it is called “libel.”
The laws surrounding defamation are designed to balance competing interests. No one should spread lies and misinformation that have the potential to ruin someone’s life.
At the same time, people are guaranteed the freedom of speech. They should be allowed to speak freely without the constant fear of facing legal consequences for a dispute, insult, or mistake.
In a free society, it is important to maintain a person’s ability to disagree politically, culturally, and socially. After all, not all citizens have the same beliefs or values.
For example, you are completely free to develop your own unique opinions based on facts. Other types of speech are also protected, including satire and exaggeration.
If you are wondering, “How much can you sue for defamation of character,” it is crucial to understand what constitutes defamatory speech.
Necessary Conditions for Proving Defamation
Defamation laws vary by state. But some rules around slander and libel are generally accepted. If you believe that you have been the victim of defamation, speak with a lawyer.
A skilled defamation attorney will analyze the facts of your case. They will build the strongest argument possible to prove that you were defamed.
So how much can you sue for defamation of character? The answer will depend on the available evidence.
To have a strong case, you will need to prove that there has been a statement that can be described as:
Any spoken, pictured, written, or gestured communication qualifies as a “statement.” Defamation cases are not restricted to spoken language.
A defamatory statement must meet all of the above characteristics. A skilled attorney will help you to understand how each of these criteria might relate to your defamation case.
Below, we will examine each of these four criteria in greater detail.
Even if someone makes a statement that hurts your reputation, it is not defamatory if it is true. In other words, true statements cannot be defamations of character.
A statement does not qualify as defamation just because it is hurtful, mean, or offensive. For this reason, most statements of opinion are not defamatory. Opinions, unlike verifiable facts, rely on perspective.
To pursue damages for libel or slander, you will need to prove that the statement in question is objectively false.
Consider the following example. When a media pundit says that a politician is “the least competent public servant I have ever seen,” they are not defaming the person. Rather, they are stating an opinion. Opinions cannot be proven false.
To be classified as defamatory, a statement must be injurious. The entire purpose of a defamation of character lawsuit is to prove that the statement in question caused damage to the victim.
The claimant in a defamation case must prove that the false statement damaged their reputation. Some examples of damage done in the wake of a defamatory statement include:
- Lost work
- Being ostracized by others
- Being shunned by friends or family
- Getting harassed by the media
The victim’s reputation is a key issue in a defamation lawsuit. If the defamed person already had a bad reputation, they may not receive as much compensation as a part of their settlement or verdict.
In this context, the term “published” simply means that a third party saw or heard the statement being communicated.
In other words, someone was aware of the communication outside of the person making the statement and the subject of the statement.
In everyday language, the term “published” usually means that certain information was printed or broadcast. For defamation cases, speech communicated in any of the following ways will qualify as being published:
- Social media
- And more
Even loud conversations in public may count as published statements if a third party overhears them.
The reason that a statement must be published to be defamatory is that defamation involves harm to the victim’s reputation. To damage the person’s reputation, the communication cannot be completely private.
There are certain instances in which you are unable to sue, even if the offending statement was false and injurious. When someone provides false testimony in a courtroom or deposition, they cannot be sued for defamation.
However, knowingly providing false testimony is a crime. There are laws in place that categorize speech in these situations as “privileged.” This is to ensure that individuals that are providing testimony do not feel the need to censor themselves for fear of facing a lawsuit.
People are not in danger of defamation of character lawsuits when they make statements in court, legislative chambers, or through official materials.
If you believe that you have been the victim of defamation, speak with an accomplished attorney. A skilled defamation lawyer will thoroughly examine the facts of your case to determine whether it meets the qualifications for a slander or libel lawsuit.
How Much Can You Sue for Defamation of Character Damages?
It is important to speak with a legal professional to accurately estimate the value of your defamation case.
In most instances, the victim will need to prove that they suffered certain types of negative consequences to recover financial compensation. For example, the defamatory statement may have caused the victim to suffer:
- A loss of money
- A decrease in income
- A tarnished reputation
Suppose that a real estate agent loses clients because of someone else’s defamatory statements. In this case, they may have grounds to sue for the commission that they lost from clients who chose to work with others.
So how much can you sue for defamation of character? It will depend on the levels of financial injury that you can prove.
The egregiousness of the defamatory statement will also influence the value of your case. Speaking with an accomplished defamation lawyer is the best way to secure the money that you deserve.
Common Types of Damages in Defamation Lawsuits
Two common categories of damages in defamation suits are “actual” and “general” damages.
This is a type of damages that is intended to compensate the victim for the financial losses caused by the defamation. Actual damages can be translated into a specific dollar amount.
Common examples of actual damages include:
- Lost or missed wages
- Decreased earning capacity
- Lost business prospects
A knowledgeable attorney can calculate the value of actual damages in a defamation case. Typically, this involves adding up the monetary value of the lost work or opportunities starting at the time of the offending statement.
It is more difficult to prove a decrease in earning capacity. To do so, many lawyers rely on expert testimony. An expert can provide insight into the amount of work or money that the plaintiff could reasonably have expected if it weren’t for the defamation.
This category of damages is intended to compensate the victim for the non-monetary harms that they suffered.
Defamatory statements do not only cause victims to lose money. These false statements also do damage to the victim’s reputation and social standing.
Common examples of general damages include:
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
The value of the general damages in a specific case will be decided by the judge or jury. Because of this, it is crucial to hire a skilled attorney to fight hard to recover maximum damages in your case.
How Can I Find a Defamation Lawyer That Is Right for Me?
It is important to find an attorney who understands your situation. Just because a lawyer has experience and qualifications does not mean that they will be the best fit for your needs or your case.
Contact a law firm that offers free case consultations. This will allow you to meet with an attorney before you decide to hire them.
At Morgan & Morgan, our caring attorneys understand the difficulties that defamation victims face. We will fight hard to protect your rights and secure maximum compensation in your case.
How Will My Legal Fees Be Covered with Morgan & Morgan?
The legal team at Morgan & Morgan operates based on contingency fees. That means that we are paid with an agreed-upon percentage of the winnings from your case.
To put it simply: We do not get paid unless you do. We are confident that we can secure the money that is rightfully yours. When you hire Morgan & Morgan, you are hiring the best.
Can I Be Certain That My Defamation Case Will Be a Success?
A: No legal case or lawsuit will be a guaranteed win. However, hiring a firm with a proven record of success will give you the best chance of recovering the compensation that you deserve.
The attorneys at Morgan & Morgan will happily evaluate your defamation case. Our legal team has plenty of experience in representing the victims of defamatory statements.
Morgan & Morgan—We Are on Your Side
When you need the premier legal team in the Atlanta area, contact Morgan & Morgan. Our accomplished attorneys boast more than a million successful settlements and verdicts. We have secured over $15 billion in recovery for our clients.
Our contingency fee payment structure means that you will pay nothing unless we successfully settle or win your case.
Call us at 877-549-6943 or fill out our contact form online to schedule your free case evaluation. We are ready to help you get the compensation you need to move forward.
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