Can You Sue Someone for Slander?

If someone has slandered you, you have the right to sue them. In order to win, you will need to prove the false nature of their statements as well as the harm those statements caused you.

What is Slander?

Slander is a false statement presented as fact that harms your reputation. Slander is when false statements are spoken orally.

Slander vs. Libel

Libel is when false statements are made in writing. This can be in print or electronic form. Libel can include false statements made on social media or posted online.

Slander vs. Defamation

Slander is a type of defamation. Defamation covers the broad category of false statements that harm someone’s reputation. Defamation includes both slander and libel.

In many cases, you don’t need to worry about the differences between slander, libel, and defamation. They all follow almost exactly the same laws except for how they are delivered. False statements can often fall under both slander and libel, such as a video with a caption on YouTube, TikTok, or other social media channels.

If you believe someone has made false claims against you that have harmed your reputation, your lawyer can figure out the legal technicalities of bringing your case.

What are the Elements of Slander?

In order to prove a claim of slander and win your lawsuit, you have to prove several elements.

  • Who made the statement. You must prove who made the slanderous statement. For example, if someone shouted something in a crowd, you would have to figure out who the specific person was and introduce evidence showing it was that person not someone else.
  • The statement referred to you. The statement must either refer to you or be made in a way that a reasonable person would conclude it was about you. If someone announces to a crowded room that “someone in here is cheating on his wife,” that usually wouldn’t be slander since it could be referring to anyone. If they were doing something to draw attention to you at the same time, even if not mentioning you directly, that would likely be slander.
  • The statement was distributed. Slander is more than just insults. It must harm your reputation. Therefore, it must be distributed to other people not just said to you.
  • The statement was false. Truth is an absolute defense to slander. For example, if you are a convicted sex offender, it may harm your reputation for more people to know this fact, but it would not be slander since the statement is true.
  • The statement caused you an injury. You must have some sort of injury to sue. This is often a direct financial consequence, such as losing a job. In some cases, it can also be emotional distress caused by the slanderous statement and what happened as a result.
  • The statement was not protected. There are several situations where it is harder to sue for slander. This includes when you are a public figure or when someone made statements under oath in a court proceeding.

What is Slander Per Se?

In some states, the law assumes that certain types of slander is damaging without you having to prove damages. This is known as slander per se.

Statements that fall under slander per se typically include:

  • Statements about your business or professional
  • Saying you commited a crime of moral turpitude
  • Saying you commited an act of unchastity or sexual misconduct
  • Saying you have an STD or other loathsome disease

What Can You Get if You Sue for Slander?

If you win your slander lawsuit, you can receive compensation for the following types of harm.

  • Lost wages or other earnings
  • Costs to find new employment
  • Medical bills including mental health treatment
  • Mental anguish
  • Punitive damages

In order to receive a specific type of damages, you will need to prove in court that you suffered a related harm and the financial impact of that harm.

How Long Do You Have to Sue for Slander?

Each state has a statute of limitations that limits how long you have to bring a lawsuit. This is typically somewhere between two to six years. If it’s been longer than the statute of limitations, you should still contact a lawyer since there are circumstances where you may be able to get an exception to the statute of limitations.

How Much Does it Cost to Sue for Slander?

The costs to sue for slander will vary widely. In many cases, you can find a lawyer who will take your case on a contingency fee basis.

A contingency fee is when you don’t pay anything unless you win. Your lawyer will generally receive one third of what you win in court.