What You Need To Know When Hiring a Private Investigation Agency

What You Need To Know When Hiring a Private Investigator

South Florida is notorious for a variety transgression that require private investigators such as locating missing persons, marital and child custody investigations, spousal surveillance services, internet video surveillance, undercover operations, executive protection embezzlement and fraud investigations, to name a few. Your choice of a private investigator can have a significant impact on the outcome of a civil lawsuit or criminal case. In short, engaging a skilled, ethical and experienced investigator can potentially increase the likelihood of success.

On the other hand, the wrong investigator may not be able to obtain the desired information information as evidence in court. Even worse, an inexperienced investigator could make a mistake that jeopardizes the entire outcome.

Here are important rules of the road to ensure the private investigator you hire will be worth the investment and help you achieve a favorable resolution.

Due Diligence is an Imperative

It is vital for the investigator to understand the intricacies of legal procedures and guidelines to avoid any problems in gathering or presenting the information. Even an investigator who has experience as a police officer, worked in the legal profession or government may not be suited for a litigation support role.

For example, understanding the nature of the confidential relationship and how it applies to the investigator’s work and findings is crucial. Should the investigator testify in court, make sure you and your lawyer fully understand his/her background and how it might affect credibility in a deposition or a court of law. Your due diligence when selecting an investigator should therefore uncover any previous unethical issues, legal entanglements, or questionable testimony under oath.

Hiring a private investigator is probably not something you do every day – not every attorney, investor, fund manager or individual has a private investigator on retainer.

In fact, you may rarely find yourself in a situation where you need a private investigator. However, those tend to be the situations where it really counts.

Check the Investigator’s Credentials

Before hiring an investigator, you should closely scrutinize his or her credentials. Be sure that the investigator’s experience and areas of specialization are a good match for your specific needs. Check the investigator’s formal training. Some may have past work experience that lends itself to certain fields of investigation, such as serving in law enforcement, the military, the legal profession or insurance claims.

The more training and experience an investigator possesses relevant to the specific assignment for your situation, the more likely the investigator will perform those services competently and properly. You should also verify that the agency is fully insured, including liability and errors and omissions policies.

Interview Your Prospective Investigator

You wouldn’t expect to get a job without a thorough interview, would you? The same applies to selecting a private investigator to determine whether the investigator’s skills, behaviors and experience are consistent with your expectations.

Ask for references. For matters that involve discretion, the investigator will often provide references of previous businesses or law firms to avoid raising the issue of client confidentiality.

Ask if the agency has ever been sued, have any of the investigators been charged with a crime or been the subject of a complaint with the state’s licensing agency or private investigation organizations. If so, what were the outcomes?

Address how the investigator will be offering his or her services. For example, will the work be performed by a single investigator or several agency staffers? How often has the investigator testified in court? What were the nature of the proceedings, and what was the result for the investigator’s client?

Hire a Licensed Investigator

Most states require investigators to be licensed. To be licensed, investigators typically are required to complete training, possess considerable work experience and undergo background checks. This ensures the investigator is qualified to serve you and your legal counsel as its investigator. Most states have online verification services to determine if an investigator is licensed. You should also ask the investigator under consideration for his license number and verify it with the state licensing agency.

Safeguard Against Investigator Liability

All investigative activities are like walking a tightrope. One slip can have serious and lasting repercussions. When an investigator has been accused of stalking, intimidation, harassment or trespassing, to name a few unlawful actions, the consequences for both yourself and your lawyer could be significant. If you discover any legal or ethical breaches by an investigator that you have hired, consider immediate termination to avoid any legal consequences.

If you know that an investigator is engaged in illegal or ethical activities and continue to use the investigator, you may later be accused of complicity even if you told the investigator not to repeat that conduct. In any case, it may be prudent to obtain liability insurance coverage in case of ethical or legal transgressions.

Understand Investigator Fees

The scope of the investigative assignment will dictate fee structure. Services such as a typical background check may be performed on a flat fee basis, while a more complicated investigation will cost considerably more. Some services such as on-site surveillance are inherently expensive. In general, the more time an investigator must commit to a specific investigation, the higher the cost.

Costs may also be affected by the nature and extent of the investigator’s experience, the sophistication of the investigator’s offices and operations, and how quickly the investigation must be completed.

Whatever the fee arrangement, make sure you have a written agreement with your investigator that clearly outlines those fees combined with a realistic timeline for completion of the engagement. The agreement should also cover the fee structure for any additional tasks and services beyond the scope of the original authorization or retainer.

Finally, once you have established a good relationship with an investigator or agency, consider using the same professional for future matters. Having an effective investigator can go a long way to delivering a favorable outcome.

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