Avoiding libel and slander lawsuits are as easy as keeping to ourselves, but knowing when another person goes over the line is another story.
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the law can probably differentiate slander from libel — one is spoken and the other written. The media exhaustively uses these words wherever and whenever they see fit, only to see most of the lawsuits flounder. The UK’s Ministry of Justice reports that as few as 17% of all defamation lawsuits make it to a settlement, as prosecuting individuals usually fail to provide sufficient proof of the act and its relevant damages.
Here are the possible damages a libellous or slanderous statement can cause:
Harm to Reputation
Clear-cut influences of a harmful statement are the primary damages of defamation. Customers may take their business elsewhere, or employers may question your character. These are the most apparent effects of libel or slander.
Mental or Physical Anguish
You may seek compensation if a derogatory statement takes a toll on your mental and physical health. Conditions like insomnia, depression, anxiety and other physical ailments count as proof if they have developed after the person made the defamatory statement.
This is linked to harm to reputation, as your income suffers from loss of business or employment. Compensation after a successful lawsuit will scale accordingly to this type of damage.
Per se Defamation
Defamation of this kind proves to be more challenging to handle and prove, since it treads the line between protected opinion and false, harmful allegation. If a person deliberately misinforms people regarding your character, you may sue them for defamation. Note that telling the truth or saying an opinion under qualified privilege (e.g. senate debate) do not count as per se defamation.
Lawyers from Aulich Civil Law note that defamation is in fact, not a crime. Rather, it is a civil wrong — a tort — which mostly does not warrant imprisonment. They add that defamation is only actionable once the defamed party files a lawsuit. Unlike crimes, torts are primarily matters handled by the court, and usually bypass the involvement of law enforcement, depending on the type of act committed.
Suing a person for defamation can help you get closure and justice after a person attacks your character. But, remember that a defamation lawsuit can also be harmful to the opposing party when they were within their right to free speech after all.