Are Slander and Libel Considered a Personal Injury?

Tort law is a complex and multi-faceted area of law. It encompasses everything from premises liability to defective products, dog bites to medical malpractice. If you’ve been the victim of libel or slander, you may be wondering if you have a case for a lawsuit. Do slander or libel fall under the scope of tort law? The simple answer is: it depends. Learn about slander and libel and how they may give rise to an injury claim.

What Is Slander?

Slander is a type of “defamation of character.” It occurs when someone tells lies, spreads false information, or communicates negative information about someone else. A false and maliciously spoken statement can be grounds for a lawsuit when it damages another person’s reputation.

What Is Libel?

Libel is similar to slander, though it concerns written material. Libel may be in a newspaper, social media post, or anything that appears in print.

Are They Personal Injury?

According to state law, both slander and libel are considered personal injury, as they both can lead to defamation of character. Slander is a short-term form of defamation, while written and video portrayals are more permanent versions of defamation.

Many people are quick to point out that the first amendment provides us all with freedom of expression and speech. This is certainly true, and it does play a role in proving a defamation of character case. Since it is our constitutional right to say what we want, the burden of proof for defamation cases is even higher than that of a general personal injury case. In other words, a plaintiff will have to provide significant evidence that a person’s written statement or speech caused measurable harm.

In a landmark case on the subject, New York Times v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme court revised their explanation of defamation. Now plaintiffs must prove actual malice motivated the act of slander or libel.

Elements in a Slander or Libel Case

The following elements may play a role in your refuting a slander or libel case:

  • Was it the truth? A common defense to libel or slander is that the statement in question was actually factual or to the benefit of the public.
  • Was it an opinion? In order to win a defamation of character case, you must prove that the statements were facts, and can be proven false under reasonable circumstances.
  • Was the information disseminated innocently? In today’s technology-driven world, information can spread in the blink of an eye. In order to claim injury, the claimant must prove that the action was not only defamatory, but spread with malicious intent.

While libel and slander have higher evidentiary standards than other kinds of personal injury cases, the actions still occur more frequently than you might think. Especially in the social media age, people spread malicious misinformation about one another. If you’ve been the victim of defamation of character and incurred harm as a result, you might have grounds for a personal injury case. For more information, talk to an attorney.