Glossary of Business Insurance Terms
What kind of work do you do?
Business owner looking at certificate of liability
Choose from the nation's best insurance providers
Logos of Insureon's business insurance carrier partners


Slander is a false, defamatory statement that maligns or harms the reputation of an individual or organization.

What is the definition of slander?

Slander is a type of defamation. It's a statement of false information that damages someone's reputation, exposes them to public hatred and ridicule, or causes a loss of income.

It is not the same as offering a negative opinion. Declaring that you don't like someone would not be considered slander. Falsely accusing someone of a crime would be considered slander and a defamation of character.

How to identify defamation and slanderous statements

To prove that something is slander, it must meet certain criteria:

  • It must be a false statement presented as a fact.
  • It was communicated to another person.
  • It caused injury to someone, such as damaging a person's reputation or causing them a loss of income.
  • It was made without adequate research to verify if it's true.

If the injured party is a public figure, such as a politician or a celebrity, a claim of slander must also prove that a statement was made with malicious intent, or a reckless disregard for the truth.

Compare business insurance quotes from top-rated insurers

How to defend against a slander lawsuit

Someone could defend themselves against a defamation case by proving:

  • The statement was true.
  • The statement was given as an opinion, not as a fact.
  • It was made with the claimant’s approval.
  • It was communicated accidentally.
  • It was privileged information (something communicated with or by an attorney that the defendant had a right to possess).
  • It was a fair comment on a matter of public interest (such as offering an opinion at a city council meeting).

Libel vs. slander

Both libel and slander are forms of defamation. In legal terms, libel involves material that is published or displayed, which is then seen by a third party. Slander is a type of oral defamation that's said out loud to another person.

Torts and defamation law

While the First Amendment forbids the government from punishing people for what they've said, the concept of freedom of speech doesn't protect you or your business from someone suing you with a defamation claim.

Most slander and libel suits fall under state jurisdiction, with state courts following the common law principles of defamation. It's an area of law that allows a defamation lawsuit without proof of actual harm, or damage to someone's good name. Under American laws, simply demonstrating that a statement was defaming could be enough to prove a case.

Winning special damages is a different story. In the landmark 1964 case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment limits someone's ability to claim damages in matters of public concern. The court said a claimant would have to prove that someone acted with "actual malice" by publishing false statements about public officials.

Does business insurance coverage protect against slander lawsuits?

General liability insurance covers common business risks, such as third-party bodily injuries and property damage, as well as advertising injuries. If someone sues your business for libel or slander, the defamation insurance included in this insurance policy would help pay your legal defense costs, including a settlement or judgment.

General liability coverage is often the first policy that small business owners buy. Commercial landlords, clients, or lenders might require you to carry this coverage. A general liability policy is strongly recommended if you have any public interaction, from operating a storefront to advertising on social media.

What our customers are saying

Updated: April 29, 2022

Compare insurance quotes for your business

Save money by comparing quotes from top-rated insurance companies.
Learn how general liability insurance protects your businessLibel vs. slander: What’s the difference?How defamation insurance protects your small business from libel or slander lawsuitsWhat to expect when you’re accused of defamationSocial media and business risk: Slander, libel, invasion of privacy, and copyright infringement