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What is Slander and Libel?

What is Slander and Libel

Victims of defamation may need to ask a personal injury lawyer – what is slander and libel? Although slander and libel can cause serious financial repercussions for their victims, it is not a well-understood tort. Victims of defamation often require the help of libel lawyers to understand their options and how to pursue damages.

What Is Slander and Libel?

Slander and libel are both forms of defamation, which is an intentional tort. Most personal injury, or tort, claims involve allegations of negligence, or the failure to exercise the care that a reasonable person would use under the same circumstances. Intentional torts, on the other hand, are a type of personal injury claim, in which the defendant acted intentionally.

Slander is verbal defamation, whereas libel is written defamation, but both are forms of defamation are intentional torts. Under Illinois law, a defamation lawsuit (whether libel or slander) must allege the following:

  1. a false statement was made about the plaintiff;
  2. the false statement was communicated to a third party without the permission of the plaintiff;
  3. the defendant knew that the statement was false and/or lacked a reasonable belief that it was true; and
  4. the plaintiff was damaged or injured by the communication of the false statement.

Recovering Damages in a Libel and Slander Case

Victims may find that libel and slander can be extremely difficult to prove, and victims may have a difficult time recovering damages. Even with the answer to the question – what is slander and libel? – victims need additional information specific to each case to have a chance to recover damages. Victims must not only prove that someone said something bad or harmful about them, but that the statement was false.

Further, they must prove that they suffered damages because of the false statement. Proving actual damages is often the most difficult part of the case for libel and slander victims because they are trying to show that they will be deprived of hypothetical income in the future due to damage to their reputation. It is an extremely high bar to clear. Victims need the help of libel lawyers or slander lawyers to even begin the process of bringing a case against someone for libel and slander.


However, some cases are easier to prove. Under Illinois law, certain statements – whether written statements (libel) or verbal statements (slander) – are considered to be so egregious that they will amount to defamation per se and the plaintiff does not need to prove that he or she was actually harmed by the statement.  Examples of defamation per se include statements that accuse another of a crime, indicate that a person is infected with a loathsome communicable disease, or indicate that a person is unable to perform his or her job, or accuses a person of adultery.

What Damages Can Slander and Libel Victims Recover?

In slander and libel cases, victims can recover special, general, and punitive damages. Special damages are actual damage that can be specifically calculated. Special damages would include lost wages and other economic losses that victims can actually show. General damages include compensation for things such as pain and suffering. Punitive damages are only available in egregious cases and are awarded by juries to punish and deter the defendant from similar action in the future. The actual amount of damages that victims can recover vary from case to case. Again, victims should be aware that proving damages is extremely difficult. Libel lawyers are an integral part in successfully pursing a slander and libel claim.

Personal injury laws, including intentional torts and negligence, include strict statutes of limitation, or time limits, that govern when a person can file a lawsuit. Accordingly, if you have been the victim of slander, libel, or other intentional tort, it is important that you promptly consult with an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney like the Chicago defamation attorneys at Ankin Law.

If you have been the victim of a slanderous or libelous statement, contact one of our Chicago slander lawyers at (312) 600-000 to learn more about how we can help you pursue your defamation intentional tort claim.

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