Suing For Damages After Being Falsely Accused Of Committing A Crime

Posted on: 9 July 2018

Being falsely accused of a crime can have a devastating impact on a person's life, resulting in a damaged reputation and even jail time if the bogus allegations culminate in criminal convictions. If you suffered because someone accused you of a crime you didn't commit and you were eventually vindicated, here are two torts you can use to force the perpetrator to compensate you for the harm done.

Defamation of Character

When people are falsely accused of crimes, their reputations are often severely damaged. It's not unusual for people to lose jobs, employment opportunities, or develop social problems because of that damage, particularly if the accusations involve serious crimes such as murder or rape.

For example, a Pennsylvania woman lost her job at a major retailer after the company's loss prevention agent falsely accused her of stealing. Eventually, the charges were dismissed but not before the woman incurred $10,000 in legal fees as well as a variety of mental and physical injuries.

One way to recover compensation for any monetary losses you suffer because of the false accusation is to sue for defamation. Essentially, defamation laws hold people accountable for lies they have spoken (slander) or written (libel) about others that damage the targets' reputations. 

To successfully use these laws to win your court case, you would have to show the person's statements were false, that they knew (or had reason to know) the accusations were false, and that you suffered some type of compensatory damage from the incident.

In the case of the Pennsylvania woman, if she can prove the loss prevention agent knew the theft allegations were false, the court may rule in her favor and force the accuser to pay the woman the money she spent on her criminal defense and other costs she incurred.

It can be tricky proving defamation in some cases, so it's a good idea to consult with an attorney for assistance in building this type of case.

Malicious Prosecution

Another option for suing for damages related to a false accusation is to sue for malicious prosecution. This type of lawsuit is best for situations where the offending party abuses the legal system to obtain any other outcome besides what the process intends. For instance, a perpetrator files a false police report claiming a person stole from them for the purpose of extorting money from the individual to make the bogus allegations go away. The victim can sue for compensation for any damage this type of action resulted in.

In addition to showing the perpetrator's motive was to abuse the system for personal gain, you will also have to prove the person didn't have reasonable grounds to make the accusation in the first place and the proceedings must have ended in your favor (e.g., the case was dismissed).

Suing for damages related to a false accusation can be challenging. Contact a personal injury attorney in your area for assistance with your case.