Advice on making or defending defamation claims
Defamatory comments can be very damaging to individuals and businesses, and can have serious financial ramifications and a detrimental effect on personal and business relationships.
In more recent years, the impact of defamatory comments has been worsened by the speed, reach and permanence of the internet and social media platforms, in conjunction with more traditional forms of the media, e.g. newspapers/magazines/TV.
If a person or business has had an untrue allegation made against them, it important that they act quickly to prevent the allegations from either being published in the first place, or if it is published, from having any long-lasting and wide reaching implications by obtaining specialist legal advice from our expert team of solicitors.
Likewise, a person or company which has been accused of making a defamatory comment should also seek advice as soon as possible.
What does defamation mean?
Defamation occurs when an individual or group makes false statements which are intended to, or have the effect of, causing financial loss to the person or organisation affected, or alternatively cause serious damage to the reputation of an individual.
Slander and libel
Instances of defamation are split into two legal bases – slander and libel.
Slander is defamation of a person that is communicated in a more transient manner, generally, through speech. However, slander can also apply to other forms of expression which are not recorded permanently.
Alternatively, libel is a defamatory comment of a person or business made through a permanent form of communication, examples include defamatory comments which are:
- Written – newspapers, books, magazines or content published online;
- Made on TV or radio; or
- Visual representations – photographs, paintings or illustrations.
If you become aware that a defamatory comment about you or your business is going to be made but has not yet been published, it is advisable to seek specialist legal advice to prevent the comment ever being published and causing any damage to you or your business.
If the comments are published online, it may be possible to get the comments removed early, thus limiting the damage to you or your business. If the comments have been made anonymously (e.g. on social media) then it still may be possible to get the comments retracted.
If a defamatory comment cannot be removed and/or it has already had a negative impact on you or your business, you can take legal action through the Courts to:
- Obtain an apology;
- A published retraction/correction;
- An injunction against the defendant so that they do not to repeat the defamatory comment; and/or
- Financial compensation for the damaged caused by the comments, such as lost revenue/wages, pain and suffering, damage to reputation, personal emotional trauma (e.g. stress, humiliation, anxiety, etc.) and to cover your legal expenses.
If you have been accused of making a defamatory comment about an individual or business, it is vital to speak with a solicitor who can assess your circumstances and supply you with the necessary legal advice.
Making or defending defamation claims – important things to consider
Defamation claims brought by a claimant must demonstrate that a false statement that has been made against them, it has been seen by other people and has caused the claimant serious harm.
The threshold for assessing serious harm will be reliant upon the circumstances of the defamatory comments, e.g. has the comment been seen or read by many people or are the comments likely to be taken seriously.
For those accused of making a defamatory comment, which they believe to be true, if they are able to prove that the comments are truthful, the claim brought by the claimant will be dismissed.
Defamation claims – How our solicitors can help
If you have had a defamatory comment made against you or your business, or you are aware of that an allegation will soon be made about you, our team can provide you with expert advice regarding your circumstances. Our advice will focus on how you can protect your reputation and, if necessary, what legal remedies are available to you so you can obtain compensation for any financial and/or reputational harm that you have suffered.
Our team can also provide advice in circumstances where you have been accused of making an untrue statement about someone or a business, and can advise of any legal action taken against you and support you resolving the dispute. Additionally, if you want to publish a comment which may result in a defamation claim being made against you, we can advise you as to how you can manage that risk.