Presenting a false statement as fact is defamation of character. Even though it's not physical damage, it can cause both financial and emotional losses. For that reason, incorrect verbal or written declarations fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. Here's a closer look at the ins and outs of the legalities.
What's Covered Under the First Amendment?
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution offers free speech to all citizens, but not all types of speech are included. True statements are automatically protected from lawsuits, even if they have an undesirable outcome, like a ruined reputation. Opinions, on the other hand, are trickier legally.
According to the Supreme Court, an opinion-based statement is protected if it's impossible to prove that it's true or false. Details shared that are obviously false or presented in a joking manner are also exempt. However, affirmations on topics of public concern are protected by the courts and the first amendment.
How Are These Cases Proven?
There are five key elements to a successful defamation of character case. Firstly, the court needs proof that a slanderous (spoken) or libel (written) statement was made. Then, the falsehood must have also been shared with others. In many cases, the first two elements are proven at once through witness testimony, written evidence, or audio or video clips.
Afterward, to seek damages, the statement has to have caused some provable damage. In most cases, it's financial in the form of earning or property loss. In some states, like Missouri, there can also be financial repercussions for mental and emotional anguish.
Evidence must then be produced confirming that the information shared is false. Finally, the court has to determine if there are certain situations in which the shared conversations are exempt from personal injury cases. The instance in which the statement was made can't occur between married partners, client and legal counsels, or medical professionals and patients. Cases must meet all of these criteria or risk being thrown out by the judge.
Individuals and businesses can request financial compensation for defamation. There are actual, assumed, and punitive damages. Actual damages are awarded for traceable monetary loss, like lost wages. Assumed compensation is a non-trackable amount based on character damage, while punitive is utilized when it's proven that the defendant acted maliciously.
If you're a victim of defamation of character, contact The Law Office of Christopher J. Swatosh, LLC in Ava, MO. The local attorney's dedication has earned him a reputation for aggressive and zealous representation. Along with personal injury, he also offers criminal and family law services. Find out how this lawyer can assist you by calling (417) 683-2987, and review the firm's offerings online.