Defamation Libel & Slander FAQ

Q. Who Can Sue for Defamation Libel or Slander?

A. Any legal entity can sue for defamation including individuals, companies and partnerships.

Q. When are Words Considered Defamatory?

A. Put simply, when the words make people think the less of you; but insults of themselves will not be.

Q. What Can be Recovered in a Successful Claim?

A. If your defamation claim is successful at trial, the Judge/Jury will award you a sum in damages, grant an injunction to prevent future publication of the allegations complained of and order your opponent to pay your legal costs.

However, defamation cases are often settled before trial and if that happens, the terms of settlement will be negotiated between the parties. Settlement will generally include one or more of the following terms: an apology/retraction/correction, payment of a sum in damages, an undertaking not to repeat the allegations complained of, payment of your legal costs.

Q. How Long Does a Defamation Case Take?

A. On average it takes about 12 months from the issue of Court proceedings until trial. However, defamation cases can sometimes last for several years.

Q. How Expensive is a Defamation Claim?

A. Legal Aid is not generally available for defamation cases, so the cost of proceedings will generally have to be paid personally.

Where the merits and prospects of success are sufficiently good, we may be able to offer you a Conditional Fee Agreement, commonly known as ‘No Win No Fee’ Agreement.

You should also check any household insurance policies, as these will sometimes provide for legal expenses insurance though these policies do not often cover defamation cases.

Q. Any Time Limit to Starting a Defamation Claim?

A. Court proceedings must be issued within one year from the date of publication, i.e. if a publication is dated 1 January 2007 then proceedings must be issued on or by 31 December 2007.

The Court may in exceptional circumstances allow the issue of a claim outside this time limit, but will rarely be prepared to do this.

Q. What's the Difference between Libel & Slander?

A. In general terms, Libel is defamation in permanent form and Slander is defamation in a non-permanent form.

Most commonly Libel tends to be written, broadcast or published online and Slander tends to be the spoken word.

Q. What Do I Have to Prove in a Defamation Claim?

A. In both libel and slander cases, you need to prove that:

  • The allegations have been published to one or more persons (other than yourself)
  • The allegations refer to you – either that you are named, pictured or are identifiable in some other way
  • That the words tend to lower you in the eyes of right thinking members of society.
  • That the publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to your reputation.

In slander cases, you will also need to prove that you have suffered financial loss, unless the allegations relate to your profession or an offence punishable by imprisonment.

Q. What's the Difference between Libel, Slander & Malicious Falsehood?

A. With a claim for malicious falsehood, the allegations do not have to be defamatory of you. However, you do have the burden of proving that the words are false, published maliciously and have, or are likely to, cause you financial loss.

Q. Does Libel Law Apply to Emails & the Internet?

A. Yes. All publications to third parties can potentially be defamatory.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers can provide immediate legal representation for Defamation, Libel, Slander and/or Malicious Falsehood anywhere in the UK.

Call our Media, Libel & Privacy Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9081 or contact us online.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers is one of the UK's largest and well known law firms with offices in London, Manchester, Watford, Liverpool, Chester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Preston, Wakefield and Wrexham.