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Libel, Defamation, and Slander in Personal Injury

Robert Huber

Although we typically associate personal injuries with physical damage, there are thousands of cases each year for damages inflicted on one’s reputation and emotional health. Although these three legal categories are often times lumped together, it’s vital to evaluate the subtle differences between them in the event that you are harmed by lies or misinformation perpetuated by another party.

What Constitutes Defamation?

The question is, what qualifies as defamation? Although there can be some gray areas, there are clearly established parameters for what these types of comments entail. As acknowledges, these types of false statements must be conveyed as facts rather than opinions. While that may seem confusing, the reality is actually fairly straight forward. If you were to make a more general assertion regarding someone’s character, such as them being a “rotten person”, this would not meet the standards of defamation. On the other hand, if you were to make a more specific accusation that an individual has committed fraudulent activities in the workplace, this would meet the criteria, and someone could have grounds to pursue a personal injury suit against you. It’s also important to note that these comments must be made to outside parties in order to be valid.

Libel and Slander

Both slander and libel are statements that qualify as defamatory. The major difference between them is the medium in which they occur. Whereas slander is a false claim that is made orally, libelous comments can occur only in written formats, such as an article. Printing false statements can have serious ramifications on a person’s reputation and employment opportunities, which can result in damages related to loss of income and wages. Larger examples of this include false statements made in best selling non-fiction books, which can result in major loss of profits for the author in question.

Proving Intent

A crucial element in any personal injury case related to defamation is proof of intent. There needs to be compelling evidence that the party who made the false statement did so with gross negligence or malicious intentions, which resulted in harm the plaintiff. Unlike public figures, private citizens are only required to prove that the defendant made the claim without taking the proper care to ascertain the truth. In the case of defamatory statements against a celebrity, malicious intent to harm must be established.

Proving Harm

After negligence or malicious intent has been established, the next step is to prove financial or emotional harm to the injured party. If the damage done to your reputation resulted in lost wages or employment opportunities, you’ll need to provide proper records and documentation in order to prove the merits of your case. Proving damages to your mental health can be more difficult, as it can require both witnesses and documentation from a doctor to demonstrate the mental anguish these defamatory statements have caused. The best way to maximize your chances of winning these types of cases is to consult a personal injury lawyer with the resources to properly represent you at every step of this arduous legal process. At Huber & Palsir, LLC, we are fiercely committed to our clients and stand ready to support you in any of your personal injury needs.