Bullying and Personal Injury
You may have heard the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And while there is great wisdom to be found in that adage, most people have at some point in their life been the victims of name calling. Sadly, that kind of bullying is not limited to children in the schoolyard — adults can also suffer from insults.
So what can you do when a bully in your life has taken to hurling insults at you or gossiping about you to others? Are there legal remedies you can take if speaking to them like an adult fails? Like many other legal questions, the answer is not always simple. You may or may not have recourse in both the civil and criminal courts.
If the bully is calling you colorful names he (or she) could be defaming you. Defamation takes place when someone makes a false statement about another and that statement damages their reputation. If the statement is spoken, it is referred to as slander. If the statement is written, it is referred to as libel.
Slander and libel lawsuits can be very difficult to win for a number of reasons. In addition to the statement being untrue, it must be heard by a third party; it cannot be a privileged statement; and, you also have to be able to prove quantifiable damages. Simply stating that your reputation is damaged because people now think less of you will generally not be enough — you need to show a monetary loss (such as the reason you were not hired at a new job is because of a defamatory statement).
Even if you believe you can meet all of those requirements, the person making the statements has many legal tools to defend themselves. Not the least of which is to argue they were asserting an opinion, rather than a fact. Saying they believe you to be a gigantic fool may be hurtful, but in most cases it will not be defamation. The bully could also argue that what they said is so absurd no one could actually believe it (perhaps calling you a 40-foot-tall yellow, bellied, purpled-headed chicken).
While defamation is a tort available in civil courts across the nation, specific rules and requirements may differ from one jurisdiction to another. If you believe you may be the victim of defamation, it is best you speak with a licensed attorney such as the Personal Injury Attorney Pottstown PA locals trust with familiarity of the rules of your area.
Perhaps you have determined that the things your bully of a neighbor has been saying are not defamatory, but nevertheless they are hurtful and causing you some level of misery. There is a good chance that such abysmal behavior rises to the level of criminal conduct. No one deserves to be ridiculed and tortured with verbal abuse. If you are the victim of such behavior, you may want to consider contacting your local police department.
Thanks to authors at Rick Linn LLC for their insight into Personal Injury Law.