Understanding Personal Injury Laws Regarding Defamation, Slander & Libel

When most people think of personal injury claims they imagine incidents like dog bites, car accidents, and other slip-and-fall type injuries. But when someone tells a blatant lie about you,  your conduct, your professional integrity, or even your health, then you may have grounds for initiating a personal injury claim.

This article discusses some of the ins and outs of defamation, slander and libel and exactly the kind of behavior that constitutes such crimes:

Slander & Libel

Statements that qualify as slander or libel include any that make factually incorrect claims regarding your participation in or outright orchestration of crime, your ability as an employee to perform the duties of your job, or any statement that implies your contraction of an infectious disease or illness. Libelous statements are simply statements that have been made in some kind of print form regarding the same kinds of subjects.

Ultimately, you don't even need to phrase something as a fact for it to potentially qualify as slander. Simply stating something to the effect that you think a particular individual contracted AIDS or has leprosy can be enough to get you in serious trouble. However, one of the qualifying criteria regarding defamation is that the statement must have been made to a third party, and not directly to you. This applies to both slander and libel.

A Few Other Guidelines

Individuals who have made slanderous or libelous statements will only be held liable for their actions if they knew that the statements they made were defamatory and false. Additionally, they will only be liable if they acted negligently in making said statements. In other words, the individuals making said statements must have strongly believed the statements were false but still have decided to make them regardless of whether or not they knew better.   

Regarding Your Source Of Information & The Defamed

The degree to which the statement was researched also affects whether or not the accused will be held liable. If the individual making slanderous or libelous statements actually took time to research the information and found, through one legitimate avenue or another, that it appeared factual, than that person may not be liable for their statements.

Another factor that will affect liability is if the person against whom the statement was made is a private or public figure. Private individuals have more protection over their personal life, but public figures must be able to prove that an individual made statements with malicious intent. So long as the individual making statements can provide a somewhat reliable source for where he or she happened upon such information, it will be difficult to prove that the individual acted maliciously.

Overall, enlisting the assistance of a personal injury attorney can ensure that statements made against you are subject to the full penalties of the law. Additionally, an attorney can help demonstrate that statements made by you, factual or otherwise, were not necessarily slanderous or libelous if you didn't know what you were saying, or if you had a reliable source that supported the statements in question.