Not every person, corporation or law firm needs to hire a private investigator on a regular basis. Realistically and thankfully, a private investigator is not someone that everyone has on speed dial.
But if a situation requires one, before you hire a private investigator, take into consideration these questions:
What is your objective?
Are you trying to find someone, collect on a judgment, determine if it’s worth suing someone or perhaps investigate a complex matter? With some cases, the specific objective may be obvious, but often clients are not sure what they really want. Having an ultimate goal or objective before you hire a private investigator can help control costs and focus the investigator in the right direction.
Do you need subject matter expertise?
Investigators often have a specialty. These include surveillance, matrimonial cases, insurance disability matters, internal fraud investigations, adoption, computer forensics, forensic accounting, litigation support, due diligence investigation and background checks. Hiring the wrong investigator for the wrong job may doom your case from the start. Before you hire a private investigator make sure the investigator you hire has a proven track record in the area you present to them.
What do you already know?
It’s important to collect every relevant piece of written or electronic information in your possession to provide to the investigator. Also, be sure to tell them everything you know—even if it’s not written down. This insures that the investigator has the best tools to be effective and efficient so that they can hit the ground running.
How will the information be used?
Are you trying to get information for your own use or do you anticipate litigation relevant to the information? In the first instance, it may be appropriate to deal directly with the investigator, but if there is litigation in the works, your investigator should be retained by an attorney to protect work product privilege.
What are your expectations?
We all love a good Sherlock Holmes novel or an old episode of Colombo, but it’s called fiction for a reason. Understanding what the investigator can legally, properly and ethically do will save you from unrealistic expectations and trouble down the road.
What are the risks if inquiries become known?
What if the investigator is caught digging around? If the inquiries the investigator is making are exposed, what’s the backlash? Think this through. This is key to developing a leak proof investigative strategy to avoid embarrassment or worse. An investigative approach depends on the sensitivity of the case—make sure you and the investigator are on the same page about technique. Is it necessary to take every precaution and be sensitive or can the investigator go in with guns blazing?