Defamation: Protecting Your Reputation from Injury


August 10, 2012

People of all ages are familiar with the children’s chant "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." The problem is that words, whether spoken or written, can and do hurt many people causing serious irreparable injury to their professional and business reputation.

If you suffer damage to your reputation because of false verbal or written statements made about you, you may have a right to recover damages for your loss in a defamation lawsuit for libel or slander. These lawsuits can be extremely difficult to litigate so it is important to seek an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer to determine if you have a valid legal claim for financial compensation.

Defamation refers to a false assertion that is communicated or published to another which damages one’s reputation. When a defaming comment is made in written form, it is referred to as "libel" while such a statement in verbal form communicated to another is referred to as "slander." There are essentially two distinct types of defamation actions. The first type of action requires proving that the defaming written or verbal statement caused actual injury, whereas a "defamation per se" lawsuit is presumed to have caused injury to one’s reputation.

Anyone who believes they may be the victim of defamation must understand that many types of disparaging comments do not constitute libel or slander. A disparaging comment that may be insulting and offensive does not constitute defamation if the content of the statement is true. The truth of an assertion may constitute an absolute defense to a defamation claim no matter how damaging the subject matter of the statement. Disparaging, embarrassing or insulting comments that are not assertions that can be proven to be either true or false also do not constitute defamation. Generally speaking, a statement must be a factual assertion not a statement of opinion to constitute defamation.

While many assertions that may constitute defamation require establishing actual damage such as lost business, profits or lost business opportunities, statements classified as defamation per se are presumed to cause injury to one’s reputation. The classic example of defamation per se is accusing a person of criminal conduct. When the nature of the statement that is alleged to constitute defamation falls under the rubric of defamation per se, there is no independent need to show actual injury to one’s reputation to establish a cause of action for defamation. However, the ability to quantify the amount of actual injury suffered to your reputation may be important to obtaining a substantial verdict.

If someone is a public figure, the legal standard for proving defamation is higher. A public figure must establish that the alleged defamer acted with "actual malice." A plaintiff must establish that the defendant knew the statement was untrue or that it was made with reckless disregard for the truth of the statement. This higher standard only applies to public figures and includes those who have placed themselves in the public eye like politicians, actors/actresses and sports figures.

Our Georgia defamation attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.