San Diego

Insurance Companies Offer Protection from Slander and Libel Lawsuits

A San Diego-based attorney says he's experienced a 50 percent increase in defamation cases.

As public ways of expressing anger become increasingly common on social media, some insurance companies are now offering policies to cover individuals for slander, libel and defamation of character.

Robert Grimstad said he was going through a divorce, when his ex-wife lashed out at him on social media.

"[She] pretty much just wished I'd die. Stuff like that... wished my train would run off the tracks," he said.

The new insurance policy is a protection available to consumers as the use of social media expands and more people could face lawsuits from their public conversations.

Attorney David Hiden offered a quick explanation of defamation law. If you call someone a jerk or a loser, that's an opinion. That's protected by the first amendment, considered freedom of speech.

"Defamation is where you make a statement about somebody and it is absolutely false and you have the evidence to prove it," said Hiden, who says he's seen a 50 percent increase in the number of defamation cases he's taken.

Hiden also says he receives two calls a day from people wanting to sue others for slander or libel.

This is so common that major insurance companies like Allstate, Farmers and State Farm all have umbrella insurance policies that help cover legal fees in case you're sued for defamation. They can add an additional $100 to $200 dollars to an existing homeowner's policy.

Hiden warns that defamation cases can be difficult to win.

"If I saw you pushing your child, and I told everybody on social media that you are a child abuser, that's probably more opinion statement," he said. "It would be hard to do something about that."

It may not make financial sense for people to sue someone for damages, even if it's a clear cut case, explained Hiden.

"Realistically, it doesn't make any sense to spend $100,000 to take a case to trial, when you have a 20-year-old college kid who's spreading defamatory comments and they have no funds" said Hiden.

According to Hiden, the most common defamation suits arise from breakups of spouses or boyfriends and girlfriends who write horrible things about each other online. Critical comments or reviews about businesses online can also spark defamation lawsuits.

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