What is defamation?

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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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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Defamation is a statement that gives a negative impression of a person, company, group, product, government, or country. The statement is made as though it were true, when in fact, it is false. Defamation can be slander, which is made with spoken words, sounds, sign language, or gestures. Defamation in any other form, like in printed words or pictures, is libel. To be considered defamation, the claim has to be false, it has to be made as if it were true, and it has to have been communicated to people other than the entity being defamed.

If you believe you have been the victim of defamation, you can get justice by bringing a civil suit. However, you will have to prove that the statement made was false; prove that the statement did damage to you; and show that the statement was made without sufficient research to know whether it was true or not.

There are also four types of defamation called “defamation per se,” which means that the defamation is a given and it’s not necessary to provide proof of damage. Defamation per se is when someone falsely claims you have a foul disease (such as a serious and highly contagious one, like an STD), when someone falsly claims you are guitly of sexual misconduct, when someone falsely states that you have committed a crime, or when someone says that you are not fit to run a business. In these cases of defamation per se, the only proof needed is that the statement was made.

When the defamation is a statement made against public figures, like members of the government, officers of large corporations, or performing artists, additional proof is needed for a successful lawsuit. The defamed person must prove that the statement was made with “actual malice” and with disregard for the truth. In other words, the person who defamed must have done so with the intention of doing harm and/or with a reckless disregard for the truth.

If you have been the victim of defamation, you should contact a libel and slander attorney to get help recovering the damages you are owed. 


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