Can Words Actually Hurt You? Learn About The Different Kinds Of Defamation-Related Damage

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Despite the old adage about sticks and stones, words can actually hurt you. Defamation is a real form of damage that can occur from somebody making false statements about you that cause your reputation to suffer. There will be several kinds of damage in your defamation lawsuit—and ways to alleviate some of the damage caused—and you'll need to know about all of them to calculate the cost of damages that were caused to you.

Actual Damage

Any damage that is compensatory is considered actual damage. This is damage related to the defamation that is designed to make you whole again because of money you lost. For example, this could be due to lost wages from losing your employment, or a business that lost customers. Actual damage also includes costs you had related to the defamation, such as if you visited a psychiatrist due to mental anguish.

While the damage is not always a finite number like you would see with a hospital bill in a traditional personal injury lawsuit, actual damage will need to be calculated by your lawyer to determine what is fair based on previous earnings.

Assumed Damage

A type of damage that cannot be proven is considered assumed damage. Hurt feelings, mortification, public shame, and a damaged reputation all fall into this category

Assumed damage is not only difficult to prove, but can be difficult to collect compensation for it. There is not a scale in place that measures assumed damage and puts a dollar amount on it. The amount you receive is up to the judge if they rule in your favor.

Punitive Damage

The purpose of punitive damage is to use it as a punishment towards those that caused the defamation. By imposing a fine for their actions, it will discourage them from doing it again. For punitive damage to be awarded it is typically required that the defendant had acted in a way that demonstrated fraud or malice.

Mitigating The Damage

It is possible for the defendant to reduce the amount of compensation they owe by mitigating the damage. This can be done by publicly apologizing to the plaintiff to clear their name. For example, if the original defamation was in print form, it would be appropriate to print a retraction statement in the same publication with similar placement as the original article.

If you feel that you have a viable claim to a defamation lawsuit, be sure to work with a lawyer to give yourself the best chance of winning in court. You can also visit a website like for more information on how to start putting together a case.