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Common Questions on Defamation Claims

Protecting your reputation or that of your business is always a top priority since this is one of your most important asset. Where a defamatory statement is made about you, either verbally, online or in published materials, it is understandable that you will have various concerns and questions. Here we look at some of the common queries that are raised in relation to the claims. 

Are there time limits for defamation claims? 

A claimant has one year from the date of the publication of the defamatory statement to start a claim. Where the statement is published online, the date will be from when the material was first published online, rather than from any repeat publications. The court can agree to an extension in very exceptional cases and will look at various factors to determine this, such as: 

  • The length of delay. 

  • The reason for the delay. 

  • Whether the delay is prejudicial to the defendant. 

  • If the delay arose due to the claimant not knowing all the facts of the case, how quickly they acted once they became fully aware of the required information. 

How much damages can you get for defamation claims?  

Damages can be awarded to a claimant that is successful with their defamation claim in order to: 

  • Compensate them for the damage to their reputation as a result of the defamatory statement. These are known as compensatory damages.  

  • Defend their reputation. 

  • Compensate them for the humiliation and distress caused. 

  • Punish the defendant, known as punitive or exemplary damages. 

Damages have to be proportionate to the seriousness of the defamatory statement and how widely it was published.  

Each case will turn on its facts, so there is not general rule in relation to the average amount of damages that a claimant can be awarded. The courts will look at various factors, including: 

  • Evidence that the claimant suffered negative treatment because of the defamatory statement.  

  • The impact this has had on the claimants reputation. 

  • How credible the publication is containing the defamatory statement. 

  • If the statement was made to a limited group (friends or family) or the general public. 

  • Whether the statement is likely to be shared widely on social media.  

  • Whether the defendant acted maliciously.  

  • If there was a prompt offer to make amends. 

  • If there was an early apology. 

  • If the defendants actions were inconsistent with any offer. 

  • Whether the defendant had acted in a way that increased the level of harm done to the claimant. 

Special damages 

This type of damage can be awarded to a claimant in relation to any actual monetary loss that they have suffered as a result of the defamatory statement being published. 

Aggravated damages 

This can be granted where the defendant has acted in such a way as to increase the harm caused to the claimant. This will apply where the defendant has acted maliciously or in a manner that was not justifiable. 

Can I report defamation to the police? 

In the UK, defamation is a civil matter as opposed to a criminal matter, following the abolishment of: 

  • Sedition 

  • Seditious libel 

  • Defamatory libel 

  • Obscene libel 

  • Blasphemous libel 

Unless the defamation has a criminal link, for example, could be classed as harassment, this is not a matter that the police will become involved with.  

Can I sue a company for defamation? 

Any individual, company or legal body can be sued for defamation. This can include: 

  • The author 

  • Editor 

  • Publisher 

  • Website owner 

  • ISP 

Website operators are afforded a level of protection under the law if they were not responsible for the information that was published on the website and they were not alerted to the existence of the defamatory statement and then failed to act.  

Can I insist on the removal of defamatory statements on social media? 

Where a court has held that a statement is defamatory, they can order the removal of the statement to prevent future harm. This will include statements that have been made on social media. The ECJ has held that social networks can be ordered to remove and block access to not just the original defamatory statement but also any identical or equivalent information that has been published.  

Can I still bring a claim if I am not named in the defamatory statement? 

The claimant must be identifiable by the statement but they do not need to be specifically named. The claimant would have to show that a person reading the statement would understand that it refers to the claimant. If this is not the case, the claimant would not be able to argue that they have suffered harm as a result of the defamatory statement.  

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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