Defamation is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another person that unjustly harms their reputation. You may be forced to confront the many legal issues around defamation in one of two situations: you may be accused of defaming another person or you may feel that your reputation has been damaged by something someone else said or wrote about you.
One of the things you may have heard about libel and slander – the words many people use when talking about defamation – is that truth is a defence. This is accurate enough, but it is not necessarily wise to say or write something about another person just because you think it is true. First of all, you may be wrong; it may be untrue. Second, the fact that something is true does not necessarily mean it is a good idea to spread the information around. One piece of advice people often hear is, “Never say or write anything in anger.” That is good advice.
These days, the majority of situations in which questions of whether one person has defamed another arise in the context of comments made in social media posts or elsewhere online. It is a mistake to assume that just because you post a comment anonymously it cannot be traced back to you. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything,” is another good piece of advice, particularly if you do not wish to become embroiled in a flame war in which you may discover you’ve crossed the line and defamed someone.
If you do cross a line, the person you bad mouthed can sue you for monetary damages. In that situation, you will obviously need to hire a Defamation Lawyer. (It can also happen that you could be charged criminally for defamation, but that is rare. If you find yourself in that unusual situation, you may need two Lawyers working as a team, a Criminal Lawyer and a Defamation Lawyer.)
Alternatively, you may believe that the person you have been exchanging insults with crossed the line. In that case, and particularly if you find that you have suffered actual harm, such as all of a sudden finding a job or renting an apartment becomes difficult or impossible, you need to consult with a Defamation Lawyer. Most good Defamation Lawyers will suggest that before you commence a lawsuit against your defamer, you should have your Lawyer write a “demand letter” in which your Lawyer will tell the individual that they can avoid being sued if they retract their defamatory comments and issue a public apology.
If you should ever need a Defamation Lawyer, you will find that there are not enough defamation disputes for Lawyers to specialize in that area of law alone. Rather, you should look for a lawyer in the Civil Litigation Section of this Directory who indicates he or she has experience handling defamation matters among other areas in which he or she may specialize. You may have to speak or exchange emails with a number of Civil Litigation Lawyers to find one with Defamation Law experience.