When most people think of personal injury, they think of a physical injury. An intentional injury to your reputation is also a personal injury, however, even if it does not result in physical harm to your person. If you have been defamed, you have the option of seeking damages against the party who harmed you.
What is Defamation?
Defamation occurs when someone makes false statements about your reputation that result in damage to your reputation. Under California law, defamation can take the form of libel or slander. Libel is defamation that is made in writing, while slander is defamation that is made verbally.
How Do I Prove My Defamation Case?
Proving defamation requires proving five specific elements: there was 1) an intentional publication of a statement of fact; 2) that was false; 3) that is not subject to a privilege; 4) that has a tendency to injure or cause a special damage; and 5) the defendant was at least negligent in publishing the statement.
Publication – The publication element can be proven by showing that the false information was communicated to a third person. Publication generally does not exist when the defendant states the information as an opinion, rather than as fact, but courts will look carefully to see whether the statement is one of fact or opinion.
Falsity – Falsity is perhaps the most critical element of a defamation claim: if the rumor or innuendo being spread about you is true, you have no defamation claim.
Unprivileged Publication – Under the California Civil Code, a privileged statement is one made in the proper discharge of an official duty; in a legislative or judicial proceeding; by a fair and true report in, or a communication to, a public journal of a judicial, legislative, or other public official proceeding; and a communication, without malice, to a person interested therein, (1) by one who is also interested, or (2) by one who stands in such a relation to the person interested as to afford a reasonable ground for supposing the motive for the communication to be innocent, or (3) who is requested by the person interested to give the information.
Injuring or Causing a Special Damage – Plaintiffs bringing defamation claims in California must generally show that the publication caused them harm. They may also show “special injury” resulted under two circumstances: if the defamatory statement is so damaging on its face the plaintiff does not need to prove actual damages, or if the defamation resulted in lost profits or business traffic, or a negative employment consequence.
Defendant’s Fault – All personal injury claims involve proving that the defendant is at fault, and defamation is no different. With defamation, the level of fault depends on whether the person harmed is a public or private figure, with private figures only needing to show that the defendant acted negligently.
What Should You Do if You Have Been Defamed?
The consequences of defamation can be just as severe as a physical personal injury. If your reputation has been harmed and you have suffered as a result, you deserve justice for the pain and embarrassment this has caused you. The attorneys at J&Y Law are ready to help you determine your options. Contact J&Y Law today to learn more.