You might think that spreading vicious rumors about someone else ended when you left middle school, let alone graduated from high school. However, defaming someone’s reputation is a sneaky, underhanded yet effective way to damage someone’s character in the eye of the public. This can be hurtful in your career, family, and personal life. Here are some facts to know about injury to reputation and how to fight back.
When you think of personal injury, you probably think of defective products that lead to health issues and other physical things. However, if someone damages your reputation in a malicious way, it can count as personal injury as well. This can apply to those who are active in service to the public, such as governors and senators, and other public figures such as pastors and celebrities. Additionally, regular people can suffer defamation to their reputation as a result of unfriendly competition and mean rumors.
Defamation is the umbrella category of what causes injury to character. It is divided into two categories, libel and slander. Libel refers to untrue, inflammatory statements that are produced in a fixed medium, such as in a newsletter or book. Slander is a little more ambiguous, as it is damages that are unfixed, or transitory. Typically, this means that slanderous statements are made aloud, such as in a speech or radio segment.
Based on our rights to free speech contained in the first amendment to the Constitution to the United States, something usually only counts as slanderous or libelous if it is backed by actual malicious intent to cause harm to another person’s character. Not only can defamation negatively affect the public’s perception of the victim, but it can also cause mental anguish in the person.
Slanderous statements are not always just someone running around claiming that another person is a mean and terrible neighbor. If everyone knows this to be untrue and dismisses the rumor without any effect to the subject of the false statement, then it might be difficult to prove that actual damages occurred. However, slander and libel can be very specific. For example, a person at work may falsely accuse another employee of harassment. If this statement is believed even though it is untrue, the victim of the rumor can lose his or her job.
Other examples of defamation include claiming that a person has a disease that causes others to shun him or her, spreading rumors that a person has committed adultery so that the marriage falls apart, and allegations that someone is immoral for another such reason. These can definitely cause mental anguish because it may result in a person getting a divorce, getting kicked out of their church or other religious group, or generally losing his or her standing in society.
Of course, the best way to defend yourself against libel and slander is to prove that the rumors or allegations are false. Contrastingly, if you are falsely accused of defaming someone’s reputation, you should prove that the statements you made are true. Also, matters of opinion do not typically count as defamation.
If you believe that you have suffered personal injury due to defamation, you should talk to a lawyer about your options. For expert legal advice, contact Austin attorney Vic Feazell today.