What’s the Difference Between Libel, Slander, and Defamation?
There’s a famous quote that goes like this; a lie can travel around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Not only is it true that lies travel quickly, but they can also do a lot of damage, and that’s why defamation laws exist.
Defamation is a broad category of civil wrongdoing that describes either knowingly making a false statement or doing so without taking the appropriate level of care. But the charges go beyond a lie or careless misstatement. Defamation also entails communicating the falsehood to a third party in a way that causes damage to the person or entity that the statement was about.
When a defamatory statement is made in writing, it is considered libel, while a defamatory statement that is spoken or communicated orally is referred to as slander. Both can cause real and significant problems, and the harm that is done is generally the basis of a defamation lawsuit. This harm can include destroying a person’s reputation or holding them up to ridicule, hatred, disgrace or contempt in the eyes of their community.
Though every accusation of defamation needs to be reviewed on its own merits, there are some types of statements that are always considered defamatory. These statements are referred to as defamatory “per se,” and include accusing a person of having committed a serious, immoral or notorious crime, being incompetent in their profession or job, or having an infectious illness as if it is fact rather than opinion. There is a fine line on this particular issue. Throwing in the words “I believe” or “I think” before making an inflammatory and false statement does not clear a person of being charged with defamation. If a malicious or false statement is made — whether in writing or orally — and it is likely to be spread around, there is a chance that it is defamatory.
One of the most important aspects of proving a defamation charge is that the statement was made to someone else, while another element is the intent to cause harm with the statement. It is much more difficult to hold a person responsible for defamation when the subject of their statement was a celebrity or well-known person. The laws are much looser around public figures and require knowledge that the statement that was made was false or made with reckless disregard for the truth.
If you have been the victim of either libel or slander and you are interested in pursuing a legal case against the person responsible, you will also need to prove that you suffered actual damages. This may include loss of income or earnings or loss of standing in the community. To determine whether you are eligible to file this type of suit, contact our office today to set up a consultation.