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Can you sue for defamation?

Requirements for civil defamation lawsuits differ for each state, but some common rules tend to apply. Some of those rules are involved in determining whether you have the basis to file a defamation lawsuit. You can't necessarily sue everyone who says or prints something about you or your company that you don't like -- other people also have rights, including the right to free speech.

Usually, there are five requirements for a defamation lawsuit. First, someone had to have made a statement about you or your brand in writing or speech. Second, someone else -- not you -- had to have heard the statement or read it. In effect, the statement must have been published to a third party or the public.

You have to be able to prove that the statement caused an injury to you in some way. It must have hurt your personal relationship or your brand. For example, it might have cost you a job or caused customers to leave your company. Without the potential for damages, a lawsuit of this type usually doesn't go forward.

To file a defamation lawsuit, you must also be dealing with a statement that is false. Even if a statement made by someone is damaging to your relationship or business, you won't typically prevail in a defamation suit if the statement is true.

Finally, the statement must have been made in a fashion that was not privileged. Statements made by witnesses in certain types of investigations or individuals testifying under oath in court, for example, are privileged. You can't base a defamation lawsuit on those statements.

If you have experienced injury because of false statements printed or said about you, you might have a case for a civil lawsuit. Working with an attorney, you can understand your options and whether your case meets the requirements for a defamation suit.

Source: FindLaw, "Defamation Law: The Basics," accessed July 01, 2016

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