What Is Libel?

Libel is a false, written statement about another person or entity; it is a type of defamation. Libelous statements can be found anywhere -- from online articles and comments to internet chat rooms or forums. However, it is important to remember that opinion cannot be defamatory. Therefore, one cannot be held legally liable for simply stating an opinion, even it was negative.

For example, if somebody spreads false, written information about another person, such comments under a blog post accusing the author of a crime that he or she did not commit, it may be a case of libel. If the information is true or if it is just an opinion or speculation, the statement will not be considered as libel. The First Amendment protects true statements and opinions through the right to freedom of speech.

Furthermore, nowadays, it is easier than ever to make a libelous statement. That is because the popularity and expansion of various social media platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, made it easy for users to instantly publish statements that have the potential of reaching thousands of people across the country.

How To Prove Libel?

In order to successfully show that libel has occurred and resulted in damages, a few requirements must be met. Typically, the plaintiff will have to prove the following elements:

The statement was false, written, and published -- meaning that a third party has seen it.
The statement has resulted in damage to the plaintiff.
The statement was made with malice -- the person making the statement was aware of the fact that the information is untrue, or displayed a reckless disregard for the truth.
The statement did not fall into the privileged category. In simple terms, this means that the person making the statement was not granted a special legal right or immunity. In such circumstances, the statement cannot be used as the basis for a libel claim.

A libel lawsuit seeks monetary compensation for any damages resulting from the false statement. The damage includes, but is not limited to, harm to the plaintiff’s reputation, lost wages or clients, and emotional distress such as anxiety or depression.

What Damages Can Be Recovered In a Libel Case?

Generally, there are two types of damages in a libel case -- damages capable of exact calculation, known as special damages, and damages not capable of exact calculation. The first type refers to the damages that can be converted into monetary value such as inability to get a job, lost clients, future lost earning capacity and other lost economic opportunities.

Non-economic damages in a libel case include what is generally called pain and suffering, which is an important element of damages in any personal injury case. Pain and suffering in libel cases refer to numerous mental issues resulting from the harm caused by the false statement. That includes struggles such as mental anguish, emotional distress, or loss of life enjoyment.

Libel cases can be complex and time-consuming. Proving that a false statement was made and has led to economic damages may be complicated as it involves careful fact-finding. Strong and valid evidence, such as copies of posted libelous statements, is necessary to win the case. To recover financial losses, additional proof showing a direct correlation to the false statement may be required. In other words, the burden for the plaintiff to prove that libel has occurred is quite high.

If you’ve been injured by a car, truck, 18 wheeler, or company vehicle, call DeSouza Law today at (210) 910-HURT or (361) 799-2222.