For decades, the private investigations industry has attracted a wide variety of participants. Interest in law enforcement, criminal justice, surveillance technologies, and even the appeal of solving mysteries has brought many companies and individuals into the field. Insurance companies, law firms and organizations that deal with liability claims, understand that these entities play an important role in rooting out fraud and erroneous assertions, while also helping to ensure fair outcomes to cases.
Many private investigation companies are available to take on liability cases, but not all firms are created equal. Before hiring a private investigator, ask these key questions to help you find the best qualified and fit for your needs.
1. Do all investigators assigned to my case have the appropriate licensing?
Beyond state licensing requirements, depending on your case, the type of license may also be important. For example, having an adjuster’s license is important on insurance claims cases.
2. Does the company use employees or independent contractors?
Many private investigations firms utilize independent contractors or subcontractors to complete their casework. This is a disadvantage for the client for several reasons: 1) the subcontractor may have a conflict of interest due to other cases they are working on, 2) there is less assurance of licensing and procedural adherence, and 3) without a long-term interest in the client, their casework may not be as thorough.
3. What are the turnaround times and will the investigator on the case be available 24/7?
Investigations are often time sensitive–requiring filings, responses and information submissions under strict deadlines. It is important to know the investigator’s time commitment for completing the work and submitting evidence. Additionally, investigators should be available and flexible to meet all case management requests on a timely basis.
4. What costs are included in the case rate?
Some private investigators provide a basic rate, but then upcharge on expenses such as travel, tolls and parking. It is important to understand if your investigator will pass through costs with or without a markup.
5. What is your procedure for handling data and information?
Investigations firms should have comprehensive data handling procedures and secure technology for managing their clients’ data and information. Secure data transfers and portals are a must to comply with state and federal regulations; and investigators must follow clear procedures when dealing with materials subject to content specific regulations such as HIPAA.
6. Do you have bilingual employees?
There are more than 37 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. today; this is up 233% from 1980. As the Spanish language continues to grow in usage, it is important that cases involving native Spanish speakers be handled by investigators who speak the language or have access to an employee team member who does. Interpreters are useful, but not as thorough as a bilingual investigator.
The job of a private investigator may seem straightforward, but it is actually complex, regulated and requires extensive training and experience to be successful. Asking these questions will help clients get a better understanding of an investigator’s capabilities prior to entrusting them with this important work.