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Sticks and Stones: Suing when the Words Hurt

Posted on May 28, 2012 by Fast Lawsuit Team

The common saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

In today’s modern society, this may not be true. Damage can be inflicted and sustained due to vicious lies and malicious words. Reputations can be sullied and can result in emotional trauma and monetary loss. A person who sustains personal damages due to false statements may sue for libel or slander.

This can refer to statements and allegations regarding:
- A person’s commitment of a crime, including a crime of moral turpitude
- A person’s competence or professional character
- A person’s moral standing (i.e. a married person accused of adultery or a single person being unchaste)
- A person’s contracting a loathsome disease such as a sexually transmitted disease

Libel vs. Slander

Libel and slander both fall under defamation of character, which is defined as personal damage and harm caused by the issuance of false statements with regards to the person. The difference between libel and slander is the medium by which the lies are propagated. For libel, the defamatory statements were made in a printed medium (i.e. newspaper or magazine). Slander refers to defamatory statements spoken and heard (or what is called non-fixed or transitory representation).

The elements that make for a defamation of character case:
- False and defamatory statements were issued against a person (either through a fixed or non-fixed medium). A statement is considered defamatory if it results in decreasing the respect for the complainant or if it causes other people to have disagreeable or hostile opinions about hi,.
- Another person other than the injured party witnessed (saw, heard or read) the statement
- The statements were about the injured party and that the person/s who saw, heard or read the statement can identify that the complainant is the person being talked about
- The statements were injurious to the complainant’s reputation.

This can cover instances where:
- A person speaks in public (or inside an elevator) and other people hear
- A person sends a letter or e-mail message
- A person writes about it in the newspaper
- A newspaper or publication republishing a defamatory statement (i.e. the newspaper prints out a letter to the editor that defames another person)

This does not cover:
- Statements that are true
- A person inadvertently reading personal messages that were not meant for him or who unknowingly transmitted defamatory material (i.e. the post office which sent of the letter having defamatory content)
- There was written consent or an express agreement to the publication from the one being “defamed”
- Defamation of a category of people or general group or an unidentified person (i.e. a government official falsely accused of graft and corruption is not considered libelous since that official was not identified)
- Statements made in court or filed as a legal document. This includes judges, lawyers and witnesses during court proceedings. This protects witnesses and lawyers from being sued since their statements will be defamatory in nature.
- Statement of opinion. Some states allow one to state an opinion as opposed to fact, as long as it can be shown that the public is in a position to know whether the statement made is only an opinion and to judge whether or not it is true. One variation of this would be providing a comment on a matter that is of public interest. For instance, if a government official is accused of sexual harassment, giving your opinion that the official is guilty is not cause for that official to file a lawsuit against you.

The challenge of proving defamatory statements

Libel and slander are generally hard to prove. You have to show that you are clearly the one being discussed and defamed and that the recipients of the statement or message understand that the statement is defamatory and that it is about you. Also, to be able to file for damages, you need to show that there is damage sustained due to the defamatory statements. The accused may also fight back by showing that you as the complainant already have a poor reputation in the community. This is an effort to minimize the claims for damages you may make.

In addition, public figures need to prove another element if they are to file a claim. They have to show that there was actual malice when the statement was made. This means that the defamatory statement was made even when the person who made them knew that they were not true or that the statements were made without first verifying it.

Various states have differing statutes covering defamation of character cases. Each state has its own rules when it comes to whether there is cause of action and what defenses may be used. There are also some states that give the accused a chance to make his apology (in public) before non-economic damages may be claimed.

As you can see, filing a slander or libel lawsuit may be challenging and difficult. You need to show concrete proof. In addition, filing a lawsuit only puts the spotlight on the issue that may have only been known to a few people. To make matters worse, losing a defamation lawsuit due to lack of evidence will result in the public thinking that you lost because the allegations were true.

However, if you think that you have solid evidence backing up your claim, you are within your right to file a lawsuit. To provide you with more funds while your case is being heard, you can consider getting lawsuit funding.

Lawsuit funding, or sometimes called a settlement loan, is provided to those who have filed a lawsuit and are in need of funds while they are waiting for their lawsuit to be settled and for damages to be paid to them. With settlement funding, one can pay for medical bills, cover household bills and pay for court-related costs.

Lawsuit loans enable you to resist the urge to go for a low compensation settlement offer from the party you are suing. You can get access to much-needed funds in as quickly as 24 hours once your application has been evaluated and approved.

 

 

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