Libel versus Slander Lawyers
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What's the Difference between Libel and Slander?
Libel usually takes the form of a written down statement injuring your reputation while slander is an oral expression. Libel can thus be thought of as defamation by sight while slander would be defamation conveyed by sound. However, most courts consider modern broadcasts, such as movies, television, and radio, as libel.
Why Does the Distinction Matter?
- Damages in Defamation Cases – General damages may be awarded to a plaintiff if his reputation has been injured, but a plaintiff's ability to obtain general damages depends on whether the case is label or slander and the facts of the case. Where general damages may be awarded, the plaintiff is allowed to recover compensation without any proof beyond the defamatory nature of the statement(s). This compensation covers the emotional trauma and harm suffered by the plaintiff. Sometimes, however, the plaintiff must prove a specific type of loss in order to prevail, known as “special damages.” This includes specific economic losses, such as lost profits, that resulted from the defamation. These are often hard to prove. If the plaintiff can prove his special damages, he may then recover general damages.
- Libel and Libel Per Quod – Most courts allow any plaintiff claiming libel to recover general damages. These damages are presumed from the harm to the plaintiff’s reputation. Some states have made a distinction between libel per se (libel on its face) from libel per quod (requiring extrinsic evidence). For libel per quod, the plaintiff must show special damages unless the libel falls into a “slander per se” category.
- Slander and Slander Per Se – If the defamation is characterized as slander, the plaintiff will most likely have to prove special damages. However, some statements are deemed so horrible that they are “slanderous per se,” requiring no additional proof of special damages. These include:
- Attacks on the plaintiff’s competence to perform adequately in his profession
- Claiming the plaintiff has a loathsome disease
- Alleging that the plaintiff has engaged in serious criminal misbehavior
- Suggesting a that a woman is morally impure
Do I Need a Lawyer as the Victim of Libel or Slander?
Both libel and slander are serious offenses that can cause irreparable damage to a person’s reputation. However, libel and slander are not easy to prove because there may not be any physical evidence to prove the harm. A lawyer will be able to assess your case and determine if there appears to have been an incident of libel or slander, whether the harmful statement classifies as slander or libel, and what your compensable damages are.
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Last Modified: 03-27-2014 12:05 PM PDT
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