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Is Defamation of Character a Personal Injury?

Word cloud for DefamationThere are obvious personal injuries; broken bones, burns, dislocations, mental changes due to a head injury but what about defamation of character? First, we need to know the definition of “defamation of character”. “Defamation of character” is described as a false statement about someone, either written or spoken, that has the intent of causing harm or ruin their reputation. For example; if someone calls you a derogatory word, that is not defamation of character. If someone says you are bad at what you do for a living that is not defamation of character. However, if someone claims you committed a crime that would be defamation of character. 

Defamation of character is very hard to prove. You will have to prove that what was said or put in writing about you is not true and you will have to prove the false allegation was done with the intent to cause you harm. To define defamation of character even further, a spoken false allegation is called slander. A written allegation is called libel.

A case that I am aware of involved a fire chief and a well-respected member of the emergency service community. The well-respected member sent a derogatory email to other high ranking members of the emergency service community and the fire chief’s employer. The fire chief became aware of this email after being alerted by one of the recipients. It just so happened that the fire chief was leaving his position after 10 years with this department and had been applying at other departments for a similar position. He was passed over by other departments and he believed it was partly due to this derogatory email and its accusation. He took the sender of the email to court and sued for defamation of character.  He prevailed and was awarded a cash settlement by the judge.

Although not a physical injury, defamation of character, can affect you emotionally. The stress of living with a false statement about your character can be overwhelming. An award by a judge for a defamation of character suit may also include any lost wages or lost future wages if employment was adversely affected by the slander or libel.

Keep in mind that this is a very difficult personal injury to prove. If you feel this has happened to you, keep accurate records of what has occurred and consult an attorney to discuss your options.