With the dawn of facebook, twitter, and other social mediums, it is very easy to hide behind a keyboard and write libelous comments about people that are not always true. People become really brave and will say things with the safety of the screen separating them from the person or persons they are freely attacking. But what if you are the subject of the attack and what if what is written is not true and damaging to your reputation, friendships, business associates, church friends?
When someone puts a statement out that can hurt your reputation it is defined as ‘defamation of character’. If that statement is written, it is called ‘libel’, and ‘slander’ is spoken defamation. It is possible for you to sue the person for damages if you find yourself defamed.
How do you prove to the court that you have been defamed?
Proof of defamation has to include all of the following elements:
- The statement has to be published. It can be gestured, in a picture, spoken or written. Written statement are easier to prove and because of this most juries, courts and insurance companies believe libel to be more dangerous than slander. Further, the statement has to be seen by someone other than the writer and you. Published can mean sent through social media, radio, speeches, television, gossip, or even people loudly conversing. It can also be published through magazines, newspapers, books, or on signs.
- Of course the statement you consider defamatory must be false; if not, it cannot be a damaging statement. It may seem offensive or insulting, but it could just be their opinion and therefore cannot be proven to be false. A bad review of a book or article you wrote cannot be considered defamatory if the reviewer is just stating their opinion and the statement cannot be disclaimed.
- You must prove how the statement hurt your reputation. A successful defamation case is about granting damages because of a damaged reputation. What happened as a result of this false statement? Did you lose your job? Are family and friends treating you differently or have they deserted you completely? Are you being hounded by the press or on social media? Did you have a good reputation prior to the statement? If not, do not expect to be awarded much in a defamation suit.
- There are certain instances where someone can make a statement and it can be proven to be false but you are not able to sue them for saying it. This happens during court proceedings or during a deposition. The court has stated that it does not want to hinder witnesses from testifying without fear of being sued for defamation. Lawmakers believe that freedom of speech is very important in these situations. Lawmakers went a step further and added themselves to this privilege stating they are not liable for what is said in the legislative chamber or even in official materials, even if it is not true.
It is important to protect your reputation. If someone puts false information for the public to see — or if anyone other than you sees or hears it and you feel you have been damaged because of the misinformation, contact an attorney, like a personal injury lawyer Loveland, CO needs, to see if you have a case where you can collect damages because of the defamatory statement.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cannon, Hadfield, Stieben & Doutt, LLC for their insight into proving defamation of character.