Words carry power. A false statement made about you by another party can have a devastating impact on your professional or personal life. Washington civil laws provide the opportunity to seek justice when another person carelessly or intentionally brings harm to your reputation. This is true whether someone published false information about you online, or a personal acquaintance spread false rumors about you to coworkers.

Below, we have provided information to help you better understand your options and obligations as you move forward.

What constitutes defamation in Washington?

Defamation is defined as an intentional false communication, either published or publicly spoken, that injures another’s reputation or good name. Defamation is that which tends to injure reputation; to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill, or confidence in which a plaintiff is held; or to excite adverse derogatory or unpleasant feelings or opinions against a person.

Defamation consists of three primary parts: (1) a defamatory statement; (2) published to a third part; and (3) which the speaker or publisher knew or should have known was false. Some statements are so defamatory that they are considered defamation per se, and the plaintiff does not have to prove that the statement harmed their reputation. Classic examples of defamation per se are allegations of serioud sexual misconduct, serious criminal misbehavior, or that a person is inflicted with some loathsome disease. When a plaintiff is able to prove defamation per se, damages are presumed, but the presumption is rebuttable.

What damages can I pursue in a defamation suit?

State laws limit the type of compensation recoverable in a defamation lawsuit. Damages may include:

  • actual damages (such as a calculable loss of income, etc.);
  • general damages (incurred as a result of harm to your reputation and its effect on your personal and professional life); and
  • punitive damages (additional damages that may be awarded by the court).

You must file your lawsuit within two years of the defamatory statement or publication.

Another important factor in defamation law is ESB 5236, a version of the Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act signed into law in 2013. The legal reform requires you to request publishers to provide a correction or clarification of a defaming statement. You must do so before you file suit. Failure to request a correction bars you from recovering certain damages at trial. This law applies to electronic publications, including blogs and other online entities. The defendant must issue the correction within 30 days of receiving the request.

I’m ready to stand up for my rights. Who should I contact?

You may wish to take advantage of a confidential, case consultation with the Deno Millikan Law Firm. Call 425-259-2222.