You can be sued for an online review.
Are you telling me, Joe, that I can be sued for speaking out about a bad experience I had with a company? Yes, you can.
Don't I have free speech?
Yes, you do. But the number of lawsuits for speaking your mind is increasing as the number of places you can speak your mind is growing. You may be more exposed to a lawsuit than you think. Websites like Yelp, Amazon and others ask for your reviews. And you are more than happy to give a review, especially if you were unhappy with the product or service. I mean, it's the American thing to do, right? Watch out. Your review can get a business on the phone with its lawyers, and all of a sudden, "You've been served!"
How can I be sued for an online review?
You can be sued for defamation if you publish an unfavorable review online that someone says is untrue and harms their business. The specific form of defamation that they are accusing you of is called libel (not to be confused with "slander" which is the verbal speaking version of defamation.) I know, I sound like a Philadelphia Lawyer.
Anyway, here is a simple definition, courtesy Law.com:
"Libel: to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast... an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others."
So if what I say is true, I'm safe, right?
(Remember, I'm an insurance agent in Chandler, AZ, and not a lawyer, so I'm not giving you legal advice. See a real live breathing attorney for legal advice if you are trying to find a line to not cross.)
But that doesn't mean a very angry business owner won't file a lawsuit anyway.
Remember, if you ever do what some of us have done at times, and get a little emotional in a review, watch out. It takes just a a few strongly worded opinions, and you may accidentally wander into that scary no-man's land of "see you in court!"
So tell me, what can I do to protect myself?
1. Stick to the facts.
Whenever possible, say only what is verifiable, and leave the opinions out. I know. Easier said than done. Try re-reading your review and look for facts before hitting "publish."
2. Check your emotions at the door.
Pretend the review is about a company owned by a good friend. You want and need to tell the truth, so they get better at what they sell. But you don't want to hurt them, since they are your friend. Treat all businesses this way. Help them get better, and maybe they won't get bitter over the review.
3. Call us at Joe's Insurance about your coverage.
The typical homeowners insurance and renters insurance policy sold in Arizona typically has no protection for personal injury (the type of coverage you need if you get sued for defamation). You probably need an affordable endorsement to get this type of protection. You may also need an Umbrella policy. Liability insurance and personal injury protection in Chandler, AZ, is important. Let's look at if for you.
Review your insurance coverage today.
Contact us. We are your Farmers insurance agent in Chandler. Call us at (480) 940-0909.
(Photo courtesy Jeffrey Smith, CC Licensed.)