What is defamation and what can I do if it happens to me?
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What is defamation and what can I do if it happens to me?

When someone makes a false statement about you, their words can damage your reputation. This possibility becomes more dangerous if they make it in a public arena. In this case, their statement could constitute defamation. If you think you’ve experienced it, it’s important to know what behaviors meet its threshold and what you can do about it.

Understanding defamation

Two types of behavior qualify as defamation: Libel and slander. Libel is any false statement published about you. And slander is any false statement spoken about you. Defamation itself can also take two forms. Defamation per se is any statement published about you that contains false allegations or suggestions. Defamation per quod does not appear defamatory at face value. But it counts as such given the circumstances of its publication.

A statement qualifies as defamation if it is:

  • Made and published
  • Harmful to you
  • Demonstrably false

If you are a public figure or limited public figure, any defamatory statement published about you must also contain actual malice. This means its publication did not merely harm you but occurred with the intent to harm you.

Fighting defamation

In Texas, you have one year to file a lawsuit against someone who defamed you. If the defendant committed defamation per se, any damages awarded will be nominal and do not need to reflect actual losses. Yet, you may be able to quantify defamation’s harm to your reputation and finances. And you will need to do so if you experienced defamation per quod. In these cases, you will want to pursue special damages to offset any economic loss you incurred. You may also receive damages as well for the defamation’s impact on your mental and emotional health. Beyond a lawsuit, you can also request that the publisher clarify, correct or retract the defaming statement. They have 30 days to make any adjustments.

No one deserves to have their reputation and livelihood damaged by defamation. If someone tries to harm yours, an attorney can help you stand up for yourself.