How do you prove libel or slander? Libel and slander are both types of defamation falsely conveying a very negative impression of another person or business. For example, if Lindsay says Joe is a convicted criminal or is dishonest or deals in stolen and defective merchandise or spreads herpes that certainly could create a negative impression about Joe but unless Lindsay’s statement was false it’s not defamatory no matter how much it may hurt Joe’s feelings or harm Joe’s reputation or business true statement are protected by the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech even if Lindsay had cast her statement as her opinion rather than fact, I think Joe spreads herpes, that wouldn’t shield Lindsay.
When statements of opinion may be reasonably interpreted as stating actual facts they are treated like any other defamatory statement. So, what’s the difference between slander and libel, if the defamatory statement is spoken such as in a conversation with friends and speak before an audience or on radio or TV, it is called slander.
Libel refers to defamatory statements made in writing whether in a letter, newspaper or book or in an email or on a Web site. Just because somebody made a false statement that created a negative impression about you does not mean you are likely going to become rich suing for slander or libel. In most circumstances, you have to be able to prove that you or your business suffered actual financial harm as a result are the libel or slander.
To collect punitive damages you also will likely have to prove the defamatory statement was made with actual malice in other words the person making the statement knew it was false or showed reckless disregard for the truth. Those things can be very difficult to prove and some defamatory statements such as those made during legislative debate or in court papers are absolutely privileged. Political figures and those involved in public debate have an especially high hurdle so that the threat of defamation suits does not have a chilling effect on free speech rights.
As libel and slander cases are usually difficult and expensive to handle very few lawyers take them on and fewer still would think of doing so on a contingency fee basis.