Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 4, 2020

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If you meet the requirements for a civil action, you can sue someone for defamation, whether libel or slander, if they have written or said something bad about you. However, you must be able to prove the necessary elements of a defamation suit if you wish to collect damages.

Understanding Defamation, Libel, and Slander

Defamation can take two forms, which are generally referred to as libel and slander. Libel is defined as a defamation of a person, group, organization, product, government, or country that was made in written or printed words or in pictures. Slander is the same thing, except the defamatory statement was made in the form of spoken words, sounds, sign language, or gestures. 

Reasons for a Defamation Lawsuit

You may be able to sue for defamation if:

  • False statements were made as if they were true.
  • The defamation caused damages.

 In cases of defamation “per se,” damage does not have to be proven. Defamation per say may occur when the party being sued states that the defamation victim:

  • Had a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Was guilty of sexual misconduct.
  • Committed a crime.
  • Was not fit to run a business.

Winning Your Defamation Case

Filing a lawsuit is one thing, but winning it is another. To prove that defamation has occurred, you would have to first prove that the statement was indeed false. Next, you have to show that the statement harmed you. Then, you have to prove that the person making the statement did not ensure that it was true. If you are well-known, you may have proof that the statement was made with actual malice. This means it must have been made with disregard for the truth, and with the intention of doing harm to you.    

Getting Help

If you wish to sue for defamation, it is a good idea to have a lawyer on your side who can assist you with gathering the appropriate evidence and making your claim.