How to Hire a Private Investigator: The Complete Guide | Are you thinking about hiring a private investigator? When most people think of private investigators, they think of a mysterious figure in a trench coat jotting down notes. While the world of private investigation is relatively elusive thanks to the portrayals in TV and media, the truth is, hiring a private investigator is a lot like hiring a lawyer or some other type of professional help.
In other words, it takes a lot of research. What steps do you need to take to hire a private investigator?
Check out this guide to learn about what you need to do to hire a private investigator.
Understand What You Need Help With
Just as lawyers have different areas of specialization, so too do private investigators. When searching for a PI, it’s very important that you hire one with the right specialty.
Here are some of the main areas of expertise:
Background Checks: Most PIs offer background checks as a part of their service, although you can find some PIs who specialize in background checks only.
Civil Investigations: These include things like workers’ compensation, missing persons, domestic surveillance, asset research, and more.
Surveillance: If you’re searching for a missing person, a surveillance PI can help you out. These professionals also help investigate cheating spouses, corporate fraud, and worker’s comp cases.
Insurance Investigations: These private investigators can help with all types of insurance cases, from health to car to life to worker’s comp insurance.
Corporate Investigations: These cases are business-centric, and they involve looking into the legitimacy of a business partner, looking into the theft or loss of propriety information, or identifying the potential damage of a reputation.
Fraud: Fraud investigations can range from investigating identity theft to verifying past work experiences. Fraud can involve an individual, a company, a scenario, or a group of people.
Domestic Investigations: Domestic investigations are usually a secondary or tertiary specialty. These investigations involve surveillance, background checks, accusations of abuse, infidelity, and divorce issues.
Accident Reconstruction: With this type of investigation, the PI will assess the location, circumstances, and cause of an accident to establish or reduce liability.
Infidelity: Rarely do PIs offer infidelity as a stand-alone specialty. Typically, PIs who specialize in infidelity also specialize in domestic and fraud investigations.
Other: There are also PIs who can help with more niche industries such as automobile theft, construction disputes, child custody, probation, and process service.
While most private investigators take on several different specialties, rarely does a PI offer all of the above-listed specialties. This is why it’s important to figure out what you need help with before hiring.
Look Into Licensing and Insurance
There’s always the chance that something could go wrong during the investigation. Should this happen, you don’t want to be the one stuck footing a large medical or accident bill.
Therefore, it’s very important to hire a PI with liability insurance. Also, keep in mind that in some states, it’s a lot easier for someone to call themselves a PI than in other states. Just because someone has the words “private investigator” in their job title, doesn’t mean they’re qualified for the job.
The qualifications it takes to call oneself a PI depends on the state. For example, some states only require that the person work exclusively with an attorney to be considered a PI.
Other states are much stricter, requiring up to 6,000 hours of fieldwork before one can call themselves a PI. In many states, applicants must also pass a state-administered exam and thorough background check.
Make sure to look into the licensing requirements in your state before hiring. If your state doesn’t have very strict licensing requirements, ask what training the PI undertook before starting their practice.
Ask for Examples of Previous Work
Just as interior designers and architects have examples of previous work, so too do private investigators. A qualified PI should be able to provide you with a detailed example of a similar case they’ve worked on.
Obviously, they need to maintain certain levels of privacy with their previous clients, but they should be able to show you examples of photos, videos, and written documentation.
When looking at examples of previous work, make sure to ask the private investigator what their process looks like. When most of us think of PIs, we think of someone staked out in a van all day. However, the private investigation field involves a lot more in-office work than people realize.
Ask the PI what the investigation should look like from start to finish. Ask them what tools they’ll use to aid them in their investigation, and ask what they’ll do should they encounter any roadblocks.
Consider the Price
Before hiring a private investigator, it’s important to understand how they charge. While most lawyers charge on retainer (aka, a set fee), most private investigators offer an hourly rate.
The rate varies from state to state and practice to practice, but generally speaking, you can expect to pay between $40 to $100 per hour for most private investigator cases. Most PIs are willing to work within your budget, so be clear about how much money you’re willing to spend.
Are You Ready to Hire a Private Investigator?
Now that you’ve read this guide, it’s time for you to hire a private investigator. The great thing about hiring a private investigator is that they can give specialized attention to your case. They can also come at your case from a perspective that many police officers and lawyers don’t have.
Be sure to check back in with our blog for more private investigation news and tips.