Although every individual can enjoy their First Amendment right to free speech, certain exceptions must be observed. Making defamatory statements against other people is one of those exceptions.
Slander is one form of defamation that doesn’t enjoy First Amendment protection. This form of defamation occurs when an individual makes a false statement of fact that causes harm to another person’s reputation orally.
Politicians and other public figures often commit slander while trying to defend themselves from criticism or accusations. But the big question is, “can I sue for slander?” The simple answer to this question is “yes.” However, there are lots of things you need to prove to win the case.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about slander and how you can sue someone who makes false and damaging statements against you.
One thing you need to keep in mind is that defamation of character is not a crime. Therefore, it means that someone can’t be jailed for defaming you. However, it is a civil wrong or “tort,” and the affected individual can only seek compensation for damages suffered.
In the past, it was pretty easy to differentiate between slander and libel. But with the increase in internet usage and social media, the distinction between the two has become thin.
In most states, the law looks at the “permanence” of the defamatory statement. For instance, a defamatory statement published on social media such as Facebook is technically a written statement, but due to the post’s transient nature, courts may treat such remarks as spoken words.
Conversely, a podcast may be spoken but will be treated like a written statement because it is archived, and its contents can be pulled up anytime. It is critical to establish whether the defamatory statement is libel or slander because determining damages will depend on the permanence of the statement.
The more harmful and permanent the statement is to the complainant, the more compensation they are likely to receive.
How to Prove Slander
When filing a slander lawsuit, you should be prepared to prove the following:
- Someone deliberately made a false and defamatory statement about you.
- The statement doesn’t fall in a “privileged” category.
- The statement caused irreversible harm to you.
- The person who published the statement acted negligently while doing so.
Key Elements of Slander
Let us now discuss some of the critical elements of slander you need to prove in your lawsuit. The statement must be;
You need to prove that the communication was made with the intention of causing harm to your reputation and deter other parties from associating with you.
Generally, if a statement attacks your reputation directly, then it is slanderous. However, most courts usually take a case-by-case approach in identifying which statements qualify as defamatory and which ones don’t.
In the case of slander, published doesn’t necessarily mean the statement was printed or written online. It means a third party saw or heard the statement. This can be in a book, social media, gossip, radio, or a relatively loud conversation.
The statement must be false. So, even if a statement hurts your reputation, it won’t be classified as slander if it is true. The statement must also be objectively false. Someone’s opinion, such as “this is the worst dentist I have ever come across,” cannot be considered defamatory since it is almost impossible to prove its falsity.
For a statement to be considered defamatory, it must not be regarded as privileged. Statements made by witnesses who testify in court and those made by lawmakers in the legislative chamber or official materials are considered privileged.
5. Target you
Before you file a slander lawsuit, make sure the statement made by the other person was targeting you. The court uses the “reasonable person standard” to establish whether a third party could believe the defamatory statement is referring to you.
Filing a Slander Lawsuit
Filing a slander lawsuit is similar to filing any other lawsuit. First, you need to file a complaint and serve it to the defendant following the service rules in your state.
Once you are through with filing the complaint and serving the defendant, you need to perform discovery. This refers to the stage where you and the defendant exchange questions to help the jury establish facts surrounding the case.
From there, you proceed to attend settlement negotiations. You can agree with the defendant to settle the case without going to trial. If things don’t work out at this stage, the case will proceed to trial.
What Kind of Damages Can You Claim in a Slander Lawsuit?
There are three types of damages you can claim if you are successful in your slander lawsuit:
- Actual damages: These are compensatory damages intended to return you to the position you were before the reckless statement was made against you. They are quantifiable and include compensation for financial losses you might have suffered, such as loss of income, lost earning capacity, and much more.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages are designed to punish the offender. The damages are intended to punish the defendant for egregious conduct and to deter similar conduct in the future.
- Non-economic damages: They include pain & suffering, emotional distress, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish.
If you believe that you’ve been a victim of slander, don’t hesitate to file a defamation lawsuit and pursue compensation. However, before you file that complaint, ensure you consult an experienced defamation attorney who will assess your case and determine if you have a valid claim.
Keep in mind that slander lawsuits can be quite complicated and detailed. Furthermore, the burden of proof lies with you and not the defendant. Talk to us today and let us help you establish if your claim is valid.