Reputation carries significant importance in professional and business environments. Unfortunately, progressing in your career or business can make you a target for defamation. When false accusations hurt your livelihood, pursuing a defamation lawsuit may become necessary.
What is defamation?
Defamation of character involves presenting false statements as facts to a third party to harm a person’s reputation. Defamation encompasses libel, which are false statements in written or visual form and slander, which are in spoken form.
Before initiating a defamation lawsuit, it’s crucial that you have incurred material damages. For example, if someone falsely accuses you of embezzlement to upper management, you could lose your job. In such a scenario, your damages could include the loss of your current job, emotional distress and humiliation.
For a defamation case to have merit, you’d need to prove the following elements:
- The statement or allegations are false.
- The statement or allegations were made known to a third person.
- The statement caused you damages unless the statement itself is so egregious that it is inherently damaging.
- The defendant acted negligently or knew that the statement was false or did not bother to verify its falsity.
In North Carolina, a statement that accomplishes any of the following may be considered to be defamation per se:
- Accuses a person of committing a crime
- Claims a person has an infectious, contagious or loathsome disease
- Implies that a person is engaging in behavior that is unbecoming of someone in their business, trade or profession
- Alleges that a person is unchaste or engaging in sexual misconduct
Defamation per se statements are so destructive that a plaintiff would not need to prove further damage.
How much compensation can you claim for defamation?
Defamation can result in various types of damages and losses. Victims typically suffer economic damages from losing their jobs or clients and the costs of addressing the defamatory statements. Moreover, they could endure noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress and mental anguish.
While it’s relatively rare, successfully demonstrating that the defamation was driven by actual malice may drive the court to award punitive damages.
Given that each case is unique, it’s difficult to determine the exact settlement you could receive if you win. Furthermore, pursuing a defamation lawsuit comes with risks and can be quite expensive. Nonetheless, for many individuals, restoring a tarnished reputation is priceless.