Defamation damages are legal damages awarded in a defamation case to compensate the victim of the defamation. Compensation in such cases can sometimes be quite high and in some regions, the topic of damages in defamation suits is a topic of debate, as some legal advocates believe that juries and judges award excessive damages in some cases. There are several different types of defamation damages and people may be entitled to one or more of these types depending on the nature of the case.
In a defamation case, the plaintiff attempts to prove that the defendant published demonstrably false information with the goal of damaging the plaintiff's reputation. In a simple example of defamation, a real estate agent could claim a rival was falsifying information about the condition of houses she was listing with the goal of getting a bigger commission. This would undermine the victim's reputation, as people would be hesitant to work with her. The results of the case will go on the public record, and although they cannot dispel the seeds planted in the minds of people who heard the original rumors, they can be used to demonstrably prove the falsity of the statements made by the defendant.
One type of defamation damages are actual damages, damages awarded to compensate people for documented losses experienced as a result of the defamation. In the above example, if the victim lost several sales contracts, the actual damages could include the commissions the victim lost out on as a result of not being able to complete the sales. Court costs associated with the suit may also be included, depending on the jurisdiction.
People can also claim defamation damages for what is known as “personal anguish.” In defamation cases, it is assumed that people experience anguish as a result of the damage to their reputations, as being the victim of lies and rumors is generally considered emotionally distressing. Finally, people can also claim punitive damages, awarded specifically to punish the defendant in the suit. These damages are designed both to penalize the defendant, and to send a message warning people considering similar activities that they could come with a high price tag.
Once defamation damages have been awarded, the defendant is obligated to pay them, although the court may agree to negotiate a payment plan if it is not possible to cover the damages all at once. In the event the defendant does not comply with the court order to pay damages, it is possible for the plaintiff to take the defendant to court again to sue for noncompliance.