This month's Legal Ink magazine features an article that will be helpful to Family Court litigants who need investigative services – surveillance, background checks, and/or locating a witness. Hiring the right private investigator can make a tremendous difference in your case, but hiring the wrong one can have disastrous consequences. This article discussed several key items to keep in mind when you want (or need) to hire a private investigator, which include:
- Do Your Research. Most investigators, whether a one-person operation or a large interstate companies, have an online presence advertising their areas of operation, specialties, coverage areas, and other aspects of their business. However, keep in mind that just because something is on their website, it doesn't mean that it is true. There is often a huge difference between what is advertised online and reality.
- Look at Experience. Experience matters with investigations, plain and simple. The requirements for obtaining a private investigator license varies from state to state, which translates to a wide variation in the amount of experience someone brings to the table. Ideally, look for a company that has experienced investigators with diverse backgrounds who are familiar with current techniques and resources.
- Success Matters. Statistics can be misleading, so don't focus solely on them when interviewing a private investigator. Instead, ask about specific scenarios from their past work, including their failures, as experienced investigators should have so many successes that they shouldn't be afraid to tell you about a case gone bad. Finally and perhaps most importantly, check the references, especially from your attorney.
- Know Your Bills. Be wary of the investigators who offer an extremely low hourly rate, as you typically get what you pay for. After all, which is more valuable – a $3,000 investigation that gets solved or a $1,500 investigation with mediocre results? Firms that seemingly charge lower hourly rates can often try to recoup their fees by working less efficiently and/or padding their time sheets. Avoid these problems by ask questions on the front end, such as how do they bill, what about travel, etc.
- Don't be Afraid to Walk Away. If an investigator is not meeting your needs, don't be afraid to look for new companies to handle your cases. Most attorneys work with more than one company, so they can refer you to someone else if you're not happy with your current investigator.