Defamation vs. Libel vs. Slander: What Do They Mean?

More and more individuals are filing lawsuits from different places to varying entities in today’s litigious society. Some of the most common claims you’d see in today’s courtrooms are slander, libel, and defamation, and these often get confused with one another. Generally, they fall into the same law category and involve communications, false debasing, or tainting someone’s character or reputation.

If you think someone’s messing with your reputation online or in-person, hiring defamation lawyers can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. However, before you file your claims, it pays to know the difference between the three legal terms.

That said, here’s what you need to know about defamation, libel, and slander—and what their differences are.

Firstly, defamation refers to a false statement presented by the accuser as a fact, causing severe injuries or damages to the character or reputation of the person being discussed. For instance, if someone accuses a person of stealing money from their employer and it’s untrue, and if the statement has affected the accused individual’s work output, this is defamation. The person whose character got damaged by the false information can file a defamation lawsuit against the accuser.

The Legal Differences Between An ‘Opinion’ and Defamation

Defamation of a character is when something false and damaging got presented as a fact to someone else. So, if someone were to say that a person’s a thief, this isn’t defamation since it’s not damaging to the accused individual’s reputation in anyone else’s eyes.

It’s worth noting that there’s a crucial difference in defamation law between merely stating an opinion and outright defaming someone. For instance, saying, “I think Joy is annoying.” is an opinion that can’t be proven true or false. However, if you say, “I think Joy stole your purse,” and it damages their reputation, then it will defame her. That’s why news outlets are careful when using the word ‘reportedly’ and ‘allegedly’ when discussing individuals accused of a crime.

Some regions have laws that automatically make specific statements or phrases as “defamation.” For instance, some states in the U.S. indicate that any false accusations that a person has committed a serious crime or is infected with contagious diseases are automatically defamatory under the law.

The Difference Between Slander and Libel

So, what do libel and slander have to do with defamation? Libel and slander are branches or types of defamation, where libel is the untrue, defamatory statements made in writing, and slander is through oral means. The difference between defamation and libel and slander cases is that ‘defamatory statements’ classified in defamation can be made through different mediums or applications, ranging from a simple blog comment to a speech during a speech or briefly stated on national television.

Meanwhile, libelous acts can only happen when statements are made in writing, including digital ones, and slanderous actions are made orally.

Damages for Defamation, Slander, and Libel

filing a lawsuit

If you’re considering suing for libel, slander, or defamation, this will bring a civil suit in a state court. Plus, it will allege that under the slander laws, libel laws, and defamatory laws of your particular region, the individual’s reputation or character who brought in the lawsuit got damaged. They need to prove that their lives got changed for the worse because of the conduct of the person who made the libelous, defamatory, or slanderous false statements.

A libel, slander, or defamation lawsuit often seeks monetary damages for the harm caused by the false statements. These ‘damages’ include severe pain and suffering, damage to the plaintiff or victim’s reputation and character, lost salaries or the loss of ability to make a living, and emotional distress, ranging from shame, humiliation, depression, to anxiety.

Defending a Defamation, Slander, or Libel Case

If you get accused of slander, libel, or general defamation, the truth will be your absolute defense to the accusation. That’s because if what you said were facts, the defendant will have no right to file a case against you. Plus, if the case was brought by a public figure like a well-known company or influencer, and you can prove you were merely negligent in weighing whether the statement was false—you can use that as a defense as well.

To conclude, libel and slander are virtually branches of defamation, an area of the law that protects individuals’ reputations by enabling them to recourse if false statements and accusations are made about them and affect their reputation negatively. It’s the type of civil case that’s an efficient way of protecting your rep to the general public.

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