Less Common Personal Injury Claims

Though most personal injury claims involve motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, dangerous or defective products, professional malpractice or work-related injuries, there are other injuries for which individuals may seek damages:

  • Defamation—Defamation involves the communication of a false statement that causes damage to reputation. Traditionally, defamation has been categorized as either libel or slander. Defamation in any form other than spoken words—written or printed text, pictures, cartoons, drawings—constitutes libel. Defamation in the form of spoken words is slander.
    As a general rule, defamation requires “publication.” For slander, this means that the statement must be made to or heard by some person other than the speaker. For libel, publication requires that the false statement be fixed in a tangible medium, i.e., put on paper or in some form where it can be seen by others.

    To constitute defamation, the false statement must be a statement of fact. Statements of opinion are never subject to defamation claims. Because defamation requires a false statement of fact, truth is considered an absolute defense to a claim of libel or slander. In addition, several exceptions have been carved out of the rule, including an exception for certain statements about people who are considered “public figures,” and therefore considered to have invited attention and commentary.

  • Intentional torts—Most personal injury claims are based on a theory of negligence—an allegation that the defendant acted carelessly, but not intentionally. However, an injured person may also seek compensation for harm resulting from intentional acts.
    Assault and battery, while generally identified as criminal offenses in most jurisdictions, can also give rise to a personal injury claim. Typically, an injured person will be able to recover damages by showing that the defendant acted intentionally, that the defendant’s acts caused injury, and that the injured party suffered some sort of loss.

    A person may seek damages for false imprisonment is he or she is intentionally confined to a bound area without reasonable cause or consent. False imprisonment may involve actually locking someone in or tying them down, but it may also be accomplished by threats of harm or force.

    A person may seek compensation for intentional infliction of emotional distress by showing that

    • someone else acted intentionally or recklessly
    • that the conduct was extreme and outrageous
    • that the conduct caused emotional distress
    • that the distress was severe

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