It used to be that most business and companies survived or didn’t by the reputation that they had in the community they served. Nowadays the internet – both a blessing and a curse – has broken companies with just a bad review or two. When someone complains about your service or you personally, that doesn’t always mean that you have a case for defamation. But if someone lies about you or spreads unfounded rumors, and you suffer either financially or emotionally due to their lies, then you just might have a defamation case for a personal injury lawyer in Baltimore – and you might be able to be compensated for what you lost.
What is defamation?
Defamation is when a false fact or statement is communicated in a such a way that it causes harm either to an individual or to a group. If it is written, then it is technically called “libel.” If it is verbally expressed, then it is legally called “slander.” If you have been the victim, then there are ways to get compensated, but you have to prove several things in order to be compensated and have the judge rule in your favor.
How to prove defamation
Defamation isn’t just that someone said something offensive about you; it requires that the plaintiff prove several components.
They must prove the defendant:
- Made a statement that was defamatory. A statement that is considered defamatory is one which would cause any responsible person to experience harm to their reputation if it was said. A statement that is defamatory might come in the form of a photograph, an article, or something visual that harms your reputation
- Published it using some third party. The concept of being “published” means that it must be shared with another person for it to be considered defamation.
- They suffered harm or injury to their reputation due to the defamatory statement. The court must find that the defamatory statement led to some harm like contempt, ridicule or degradation from the public.
What is defamation per se?
Some states allow for statements that are defamation per se. In the states that allow it, the plaintiff does not have to prove that the statements ruined or harmed their reputation. They just have to show that the statements:
- Concerned their trade, profession, or business
- Indicated that the plaintiff had a “loathsome” disease, like an STD
- Indicated that the plaintiff was “unchaste”
- Indicated that the plaintiff engaged in criminal activity
What if you are a public figure?
Sometimes defamation can conflict with an individual’s First Amendment rights. When a public figure believes that they have been defamed by an organization or an individual, there may be a disconnect between a person’s right to voice their opinion and that opinion being defamatory. Since many public figures are open to ridicule due to their political affiliations or the decisions they make, it is difficult for someone who is in the public limelight to sue for defamation unless it was highly egresses and personal.
For a public figure to claim defamation, they have to prove that the things that were said were meant with malice and disregard for the public person’s individual freedoms.
What are defenses that a person can use against defamation?
If you are charged with defamation, then the most common defenses are:
- It was the truth. Defamation means that the statements were false, so if you can prove they are true, then it isn’t defamation
- It was merely an opinion. If you can prove that you are merely stating an opinion, then you can’t be found liable for defamation. Defamation involves facts, not opinions
- You had consent. If the person who insists that you defamed them gave you consent to publish what you did, then you can’t be held liable for defamation
- It was privileged information. If you can prove that the statements are protected by “qualified” or “absolute” privilege, like statements that are made in court, then it is not defamation
Defamation falls under the umbrella of personal injury. Therefore, if you sue someone for defamation in Baltimore and can prove your case in a court of law, you are entitled to recover both economic and noneconomic damages if you can win your case.