Personal Injury Claims: What Are the Key Elements to a Defamation Trial?

While many don’t consider it as such, a defamation or slander claim is actually a personal injury case. A specialized attorney will help you understand what such a legal action entails. Below are a few useful pieces of info.

What is a defamatory statement?

This is a false statement negligently and publicly communicated to a third party, that can bring about personal injury or damage to the subject of the communication. There are many types of defamation and generally libel and slander are different types. While slander is an oral statement, libel is written.

A personal injury lawyer will explain that a statement is defamatory if it holds the plaintiff up to ridicule, contempt or disgrace in the eyes of the community. In some US states, certain types of statements will be automatically considered defamatory.  These include statements that:

  • The plaintiff had a terrible disease
  • He or she has committed an immoral act
  • The plaintiff is incompetent from a professional standpoint

What is the difference between opinion and defamation?

Legally speaking, a defamatory statement is that statement which actually elicits a fact. An opinion cannot be defamatory.  It is all depending on who you say it to and how you say it, implying that someone did something bad by phrasing it as an opinion can be defamatory. There are many aspects here that the law leaves for attorney’s interpretation but overall, gray area statements are the ones that have most chances of being qualified as defamation.

Another important aspect of a defamatory statement is that it must have been made to a third party.

There is also another crucial aspect that one should consider in a defamation trial. The person making the statement had to have acted inappropriately in some way.  Thus, a person can be found liable if:

–          They knew the statement was false

–          They acted with a negligent disregard of a statement’s truth value

Defamation of a public figure, is that a different legal case?

In legal terms, the difference between defamation of a public figure versus defamation of a private person is quite simple to explain. A private person who claims defamation will need to be able to prove the defamer acted negligently when making a certain statement. A public figure has to prove the act was intentional.

A plaintiff in a defamation case is entitled to receive damages for any actual personal injuries incurred as a result of the defamatory statement and this includes moral damage. Other damages may include lost wages, pain, suffering as well as personal humiliation and loss of reputation.

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