Defamation of Character Damages

Defamation of character is one of the most widely discussed types of civil litigation. But despite its frequent appearance in the news, particularly when it involves celebrities, defamation of character is also widely misunderstood.

For example, many people may not know that defamation of character is actually a form of personal injury, and thus often appears as part of a personal injury lawsuit.

In addition, defamation of character damages are usually not available if the allegedly defaming remarks are true. Damages in a defamation of character lawsuit can involve actual and punitive damage fees.

Defamation of Character Basics

Defamation usually involves false claims, either written or spoken, about an individual that harms that person’s reputation. Written defamation is known as libel, while defamation in spoken form is called slander.

In order for a defamation of character claim to have merit, plaintiffs must usually prove:

  • Public false statement. The alleged defamer must have made a public statement about the plaintiff that was untrue.
  • Causal link. The statement must clearly relate to the plaintiff, and not someone else.
  • Harm. The plaintiff must also usually prove that he or she suffered some sort of harm as a result of the defamation. Harm may include decreased reputation, economic losses, or other forms of non-physical injury.

In addition, celebrities and public figures have a higher threshold for obtaining defamation of character damages. They must also prove that the alleged defamer acted with actual malice.

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Types of Damages for Defamation of Character

If a plaintiff successfully proves slander or libel, then he or she may be eligible for defamation of character damages. Damages in this type of personal injury settlement may include:

  • Actual damages. These help plaintiffs obtain relief for the harm they suffered. Actual damages may compensate victims for economic losses, emotion suffering, or harmed reputation.
  • Punitive damages. In extreme cases, a court may issue punitive damages in order to punish the defamer.

Defamation of character cases rely on slippery, ever-changing areas of law. Personal injury laws also vary from state to state.

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