The Average Payout For Defamation Of Character In The UK

March 2024

The Average Payout For Defamation Of Character In The UK In March 2024

In this article, we will look at what defamation of character is in the UK and what the average payout could be.

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What Is Defamation?

Under UK law, defamation of character refers to the intentional act of saying something which causes harm to another person’s reputation by making false statements, either orally or in writing.

Defamation can be through spoken words, written words, images, gestures, or any other form of communication that has the potential to diminish one’s good name or character.

In the UK, defamation law can be complicated, and there are many nuances to consider when determining whether or not a statement has defamed someone.

It is important to remember that the onus of proof lies with the person making a claim, meaning they must provide evidence that what was said or published was false and would have caused harm to their reputation if it had been heard by those who could understand its implications.

 

What Is The Average Payout For Defamation Of Character UK?

On average for the cost of a defamation lawsuit, you can expect a payout of between £5,000 and £50,000. This is not a guaranteed amount and may be subject to change depending on the individual case. 

The average payout for defamation of character in the UK can vary widely, and will depend upon a number of factors, such as the seriousness of the case, the extent of any damages caused by the statement, and any mitigating circumstances.

In some cases, damages may be greater than this if the person making the claim can prove that considerable harm was caused by the statement or action in question. In such cases, legal costs will also come into play when considering how much compensation an individual might receive.

The best way to determine what kind of payout you could expect for defamation of character is to speak with a solicitor who specialises in this area of law. They will be able to give you advice based on your particular circumstances and provide guidance as to how much compensation you might be entitled to receive.

How Are Damages Calculated?

When calculating damages, a court will consider the seriousness and extent of the harm caused to an individual’s reputation by the statement or action in question. This helps to determine the defamation compensation.

This includes both emotional and financial harms which may have been incurred as a result.

The amount of damages awarded will typically depend on how malicious or libellous the statements were and any aggravating factors that may have contributed to the harm.

In some cases, additional punitive damages may be awarded in order to punish those responsible for making false claims or publishing defamatory material.

Punitive damages are designed to deter others from engaging in similar kinds of behaviour and can range from several thousand pounds up to millions depending on the severity of the case.

It is important to note that all damages caused by defamation of character awarded are based on a case-by-case basis, and any award should be discussed with a solicitor in order to ensure you receive the most appropriate compensation for your circumstances.

10 things that can impact the average payout.

Here is a list of 10 things that can impact your payout for defamation.

1 – The type of statement made

Determine whether the statement was in written form (libel) or spoken (slander) before you sue for defamation of character, as this will affect the average payout. Also, whether it was an untrue statement – Suing someone for lying in the UK typically falls under the umbrella of defamation law.

2 – The extent of harm caused

If a statement causes a person to suffer financial losses, such as losing their job or being refused a promotion, then this could result in higher damages being awarded.

3. How widely the defamatory statement has been disseminated

The more people who have seen or heard the defamatory statement, the more likely it is that damages will be higher.

impact the average payout

4. Any mitigating circumstances

If there are any mitigating circumstances which lessen the seriousness of the slander that  was said or published, then this may reduce the damages awarded.

5. Making a public apology

If the person who made the defamatory statement publicly apologises, then this may reduce the damages awarded.

6 – Financial compensation offered by the perpetrator

If financial compensation is offered by the perpetrator of the defamation, this can sometimes be accepted as being sufficient to cover any losses caused by the defamation of character.

"The definition of defamation is an intentional act which causes harm to another person's reputation by making false statements about them, either orally or in writing."

7 – The victim’s credibility

If it is shown that the victim has a low level of credibility with regard to other matters, then this may affect the average payout for defamation of character in the UK.

8 – Whether or not a court order was issued

A court order can dramatically increase damages if one is issued and enforced against someone making a defamatory statement.

9 – Any previous legal action taken

If the person making a claim has previously taken legal action regarding similar matters, then this could influence a judge’s decision when determining damages.

previous legal action

10 – The jurisdiction where the case is heard

Different countries have different laws concerning defamation, and the average payout can differ depending on where the case is being heard.

These are just some of the factors that can affect the average payout for defamation of character in the UK.

It is important to consider all aspects of such cases before deciding whether or not to pursue legal action.

What Does ‘Serious Harm’ Mean?

Serious harm is a legal term used to describe the severity of damage caused by defamation.

It refers to situations with a substantial and lasting effect on an individual’s reputation or livelihood. This can include damage to their professional relationships, loss of employment opportunities, or mental distress and anguish.

It is important to note that serious harm must be proved in order for an individual to receive damages from a court. If it cannot be proven, then the payout may not be as high as expected.

In some cases, it may even be possible for a defendant to win their case without proving serious harm if they can show that the statement was true or was made in good faith.

What Is The Difference Between Defamation, Libel And Slander?

Defamation is a general term used to describe any statement that could cause someone harm or damage their reputation. This includes both libel claims and slander.

Libel is the written form of defamation and involves making false statements in print, on television, radio, or online. Slander is the spoken form of defamation which often involves verbal insults or false accusations aimed at damaging someone’s reputation.

In the UK, it is illegal to make a defamatory statement about someone without proof that it is true. It can be difficult to prove the truth of a statement, so it is important to exercise caution when discussing others in public.

It is also important to note that while an apology might reduce damages awarded by a court, it is not enough to prevent a claim from being made in the first place. 

Claim Aggravated Damages

Ultimately, it is best to avoid making any statements that could damage someone’s reputation.

Check If You Can Claim Aggravated Damages

If you feel that the defendant’s negligence or misconduct was particularly careless or malicious, then you may be able to claim aggravated damages in addition to your regular damages.

Aggravated damages are awarded as a way of punishing the defendant for their egregious behaviour and can also cover any mental distress, humiliation, or insult suffered due to their actions.

To qualify for aggravated damages, you must demonstrate that the conduct of the defendant was more than simply negligent; it must rise to the level of being outrageous and deserving of punishment.

It is important to seek legal advice before making a claim for these punitive damages because courts often view them sceptically and have strict guidelines about when they should be awarded.

If successful, an award of aggravated damages can increase your overall compensation significantly. It is important to note, however, that you may not be able to pursue a separate claim for aggravated damages once the main case has been finalised.

As such, it is advisable to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible in order to ensure that all relevant claims are filed and pursued in a timely manner.

You should also keep in mind that if the court finds the defendant’s behaviour negligent but not outrageous enough for an award of aggravated damages, then you may still be able to recover punitive damages.

Punitive damages are used mainly as a way to deter others from engaging in similar conduct and thus can be awarded even if negligence was not proven on its own merit.

How To Prove Serious Harm As A Result Of Defamation Of Character

Proving serious harm due to defamation of character can be difficult, but it is not impossible.

The first step is to gather evidence that the plaintiff has suffered some tangible damage due to the defamatory statement or act.

This could include lost wages, mental anguish, humiliation, and other losses related to the defamation.

It’s important to remember that proving such harm requires more than simply showing that the plaintiff was hurt emotionally.

The court must be able to prove that there were concrete damages resulting from the act; mere emotional distress is not enough unless it meets certain criteria, such as being extreme or long-lasting in nature. In addition, it must be shown that these damages would not have occurred had it not been for the defamatory statement.

It’s also important to show that the defendant acted with malice or intent to cause harm. This can be difficult to prove since it requires demonstrating that the defendant knew their statements were false and intended for them to do harm.

Evidence of this may include emails, text messages, or other forms of communication between the defendant and plaintiff prior to or during the incident in question. 

In addition, testimony from witnesses can help bolster claims of malicious intent.

For a successful defamation lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to provide clear evidence that serious harm has resulted from the defamatory act in order for damages to be awarded. Though proving such harm is often an uphill battle, it is possible with the right evidence and legal counsel.

With a good understanding of the law and what constitutes serious harm, plaintiffs can build a strong case for their claims of defamation.

What Is The ‘Presumption Of Falsity’?

The ‘Presumption of Falsity’ is a legal principle in which an accused person is assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. This means that the burden of proof lies on the accused to prove their innocence, instead of the accuser having to provide evidence for guilt.

This presumption applies in criminal law and civil law cases alike. In criminal law, it is commonly referred to as “beyond a reasonable doubt” – meaning that all elements of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a conviction can occur.

In civil matters, the standard is lower and only requires “the preponderance of evidence,” meaning that more than half of the evidence presented must support one side over another.

Remedies Available In A Defamation Of Character Lawsuit In The UK

The remedies available in a defamation of character lawsuit in the UK depend on the specifics of each individual case.

Remedies Available In A Defamation

Generally, three types of damages can be awarded. These are:

  • compensatory damages
  • punitive damages, and
  • injunction orders.

Compensatory damages

Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the claimant for any losses they have suffered as a result of the defamatory statement or act.

Punitive damages

Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant. These may be awarded if the court finds them liable for acting with malice or intent to cause harm.

Injunction order

An injunction order is issued by a court and requires that the defendant cease making any further defamatory statements or take other actions which could damage the plaintiff’s reputation.  

What Is The Cost Of A Defamation Lawsuit In The UK?

The cost of a defamation lawsuit in the UK can vary greatly depending on the specifics of each case. Generally, this cost will include legal fees and court costs.

Legal fees may range from £2,000 to £20,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the case. Some cases can cost in the hundreds of thousands and potentially millions.

Court costs are also variable but typically range from between £2,500 to £6,000 for a small claims court hearing up to around £50,000 for complex High Court cases.

In addition to these costs, there may be other associated expenses, such as expert witness fees and travel costs.

It is important that claimants consult with an experienced solicitor before embarking upon any legal action so that an accurate estimate of overall costs can be estimated.

Defamation Lawsuit

How To Bring A Claim For Defamation Of Character?

A claim for defamation of character can be brought either in the civil court or criminal court, depending on the specifics of each case and the jurisdiction.

In a civil claim, claimants must first establish that they have suffered serious harm. This may include financial or non-economic losses such as damage to reputation, distress or hurt feelings. The claimant must then prove that a defamatory statement was made and was false, meaning not substantially true.

The claimant must also show that there was an intention to cause harm by showing malicious intent (for example, through evidence of prior communication between parties).

Once these elements are established, and damages are proven, a decision will be made as to whether an award should be issued.

What is ‘absolute privilege’ in defamation cases?

Absolute privilege is a legal principle that states that certain circumstances and communications are exempt from defamation law. This means that even if defamatory statements have been made, no action can be taken if the communication was made in an environment where absolute privilege applies.

What is ‘qualified privilege’ in defamation cases?

Qualified privilege is a defence to defamation claims which can be used when it has been established that the person making the statement had a good reason to do so and acted without malice or ill will.

The claimant must prove that the defendant acted with malice in order for this defence to be successfully used. Qualified privilege does not apply if the defendant made a statement out of spite or with the intention to damage the claimant’s reputation.

In such cases, qualified privilege can be used as a defence by showing that they had a legal, moral, or social duty to make their statement and did not act maliciously.

How Are Defamation Cases Settled?

Defamation cases are typically settled out of court. This means that the claimant and defendant negotiate a settlement agreement with the help of their respective legal teams.

An out-of-court settlement is often preferable because it saves time, reduces costs, and keeps matters private. 

If a resolution cannot be reached, then the case may need to proceed to court for further proceedings. However, you can always look at using an alternative dispute resolution if this is likely to help bring an end to the case.

In some cases, defendants may feel more confident in defending themselves by arguing that they acted without malice or intent and were merely exercising their right to freedom of speech. In such cases, the burden will lie on them to prove that this was indeed true.

Ultimately, both parties must agree upon an acceptable settlement or risk taking the matter to court. It is important to work with an experienced solicitor to ensure the best possible outcome.

A solicitor can help you assess your case, determine a reasonable settlement amount, and negotiate on your behalf. They can also provide advice regarding whether or not going to court is in your best interests.

What Is The Time Limit For Bringing A Defamation Claim?

In the UK, there is a one-year limitation period for bringing defamation claims. This means that if you believe your reputation has been damaged by false and malicious statements, you must bring your claim to court within one year of when the statement was made.

It is important to note that this time limit may be extended in certain circumstances.

For instance, if the defamatory statement was not discovered until more than one year after it was made, then the claimant may have up to three years from when it was discovered to make their claim.

If the claimant is unsure about their time limits for making their claim, they should consult with an experienced solicitor as soon as possible in order to determine whether or not their case is viable.

It is also important to note that a claimant’s case may be weakened if they wait too long to bring their claim, as this could appear to the court as an attempt to damage the defendant’s reputation, which could reduce any settlement amount that is awarded.

In conclusion, defamation of character is a serious matter and one which should not be taken lightly.

If you believe false statements and malicious intent have unjustly damaged your character or reputation, it is important to seek legal advice right away in order to assess your options and determine whether or not you have a valid claim for damages.

An experienced solicitor can provide you with guidance on all aspects of such claims and help you pursue justice through civil action.

Meet the author

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson

Jane is one of our primary content writers and specialises in elder care. She has a degree in English language and literature from Manchester University and has been writing and reviewing products for a number of years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Defamation?

The definition of defamation is an intentional act which causes harm to another person’s reputation by making false statements about them, either orally or in writing.

What Is The Average Payout For Defamation Of Character UK?

On average, you can expect a payout of between £5,000 and £50,000. This is not a guaranteed amount and may be subject to change depending on the individual case.

How Are Damages Calculated?

When calculating damages, a court will consider the seriousness and extent of the harm caused to an individual’s reputation by the statement or action in question.

This includes both emotional and financial harms which may have been incurred as a result.

What Is The ‘Presumption Of Falsity’?

The ‘Presumption of Falsity’ is a legal principle in which an accused person is assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. This means that the burden of proof lies on the accused to prove their innocence, instead of the accuser having to provide evidence for guilt.

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