Hiring a private investigator is not something you would do very often unless maybe you’re an attorney. For most people, making the first call to a private investigator is a daunting task and it makes many people nervous.
But, there are a few things you can do to make the process less nerve wracking and we are happy to share the following 10 tips with you
1. Prepare in advance
This is probably the most important step you can take. Think of all the information you have about your situation and sit down and write these pieces of information down on a piece of paper. You should also write down any questions you might have.
This way, you won’t have to struggle to remember them when you make the call to a private investigator.
Also, keep some note paper and a pen handy to take notes when you’re talking to the private investigator.
2. Discuss the case parameters
Make sure you discuss all the aspects of the investigation with the investigator. You’ll want to know how they’re going to charge you and what types of payment they expect to both get started on your case and during your case.
Ask them if they foresee any unexpected charges arising out of your case. You don’t want any surprises.
3. Make sure there’s a contract
Never hire a private investigator without establishing a written contract. The contract will protect both you and the investigator should things go wrong, or you have a dispute with the investigator.
The contract should include a list of the services you are hiring the private investigator to complete, and the costs associated with each service.
4. Make sure they're licensed
48 states require private investigators to be licensed and this is a very important step in choosing a private investigator.
Unlicensed private investigators are more likely to rip you off and any evidence they obtain will be obtained illegally. This makes any evidence and unlicensed investigator obtains useless to you in a court setting.
5. Make sure they carry liability insurance
Many private investigators only carry a bond, which is the minimum coverage most states require. A bond is NOT insurance and any private investigator you hire should carry a minimum of $3 Million in liability coverage.
It’s rare that things go seriously wrong in a private investigation, but if they do, a bond won’t cover you from a major liability event.
6. Check their client list and reviews
A professional, ethical private investigator should be able to show you a client list and point you to reviews and testimonials that you can read to learn about other people’s experience with a particular private investigator.
If a private detective tells your their client list is “private”, hang up on them and call a professional private investigator. Case work is private and confidential, clients are not.
7. Have a communication schedule
Find out from the investigator how they plan to keep you updated on your case. Most professional private investigators will let you know upfront how they will update you.
Don’t expect to receive “blow-by-blow” updates on your case. You can expect daily updates and if the investigator is waiting on another entity to provide data (as in the case of DNA searches) this might take longer. The investigator should prepare you for this.
8. Ask how you will receive your evidence
Be sure to discuss how the investigator is going to provide reports to you, and whether they’ll be hardcopies or digital copies.
If your case requires video evidence, ask for the type of format the video will be provided. You want to make sure you and your attorney can view it easily.
9. Check with your attorney
Make sure your attorney knows you’re hiring a private investigator. Your attorney may tell you to not do it for various reasons. You should always follow your attorney’s advice, and if an attorney recommends a particular private investigator, then that’s the one you should hire. The attorney obviously has experience working with them and trusts them.
10. Know your budget
While the overall costs of most cases can’t always be predicted accurately, the investigator should be able to give you a rough estimate of what a particular task or event might cost.
You will want to make sure you can afford the costs of an investigation so as to avoid any embarrassing conversations down the line.
11. Ask what happens afterwards
You should also ask your private investigator what to expect after the investigation is complete.
- Do you, or they provide the evidence to your attorney?
- Will they be able to testify in court on your behalf and what will that cost?
- Will any of your evidence be used for any other purpose, such as marketing and advertising?
A professional private investigator should be able to discuss these parameters with you.