Defamation Damages: A Legal Guide For Slander and Libel Lawsuits

defamation damages
What kind of damages can a plaintiff ask for in slander and libel lawsuits?

What damages can you collect in a defamation lawsuit? The answer depends on several factors including (but not limited to):

  1. The amount of money you, the plaintiff, lost as a direct result of the defamatory statement;
  2. Your public “status”( under U.S. law, there are different rules for “public figures” and “private citizens”);and
  3. The specific slander and libel laws of the jurisdiction in which the case is being heard.

That said, there are several universals in regards to defamation damages.

What Are Damages, Legally Speaking?

Legal damages are similar to physical damages in that they represent the pain, hurt or loss an individual or business experiences when wronged. In litigation argot, damages are the awards – usually monetary – that a plaintiff can win for the pains and loss caused by the defendant.

Damages are separated into different categories, and statutes determine which categories of defamation damages can be claimed for a given offense.

Compensatory Defamation Damages

Also called actual damages, compensatory damages are the monies an individual or company loses as a direct result of a defendant’s actions. Expectation damages, which are similar, are often used in contract law.

If you lose your job as a result of defamation, you can claim lost wages as a compensatory damage. If you know that you didn’t get a job because of slander or libel, you can also file for lost wages, either as a compensatory damage or a consequential damage (explained below).

Speculative Defamation Damages

Speculative damages are losses that have yet to be been incurred by the plaintiff, but will most likely occur in the future as a result of the defendant’s wrong-doing. In a slander or libel lawsuit, speculative damages could be awarded for:

  1. Lost business due to a defamatory review on Yelp! or other review site;
  2. Lost job because an employer decided not to hire as a result of  a defamatory comment found on Facebook or another social networking platform;
  3. Any cost that you or your business will have to pay, singular to your industry, as a result of the defamation.

Consequential Defamation Damages

Consequential damages are calculated by estimating the amount of money a plaintiff would have made if an act of defamation hadn’t be committed. A plaintiff can also make an argument for consequential damages if the actions of the defendants results in more costs.

For example, in an online defamation case, it’s possible to get damages in order to hire a reputation management company to “clean up” the Internet mess your defamer left online.

Punitive Defamation Damages

The role of punitive damages is to dissuade a defendant from engaging in the same type of behavior in the future. They also serve to highlight to the public at large that the censured activity at issue will not be met kindly by the courts.

In defamation cases, punitive damages are not awarded as regularly as speculative, consequential or compensatory damages. Some jurisdictions don’t even allow punitive damages in defamation cases.

Defamation Litigation

Defamation can devastate a reputation or business. The viral nature of the Internet makes libel spread quicker than lice in a pre-school class. If you want to contain the damage, start defamation proceedings as quickly as possible. Sometimes, a mere cease and desist defamation letter is enough to have your adversaries step down and remove the offending material.

If you’re ready to confront a person or business that published defamatory material about you, contact us today. We’ve helped hundreds of people with their defamation litigation needs, our rates are reasonable, and we always aim to get the job done as quickly and effectively as possible.

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