I’m still surprised by how little the average person actually understands about private investigators, what their own personal rights are regarding investigations, and how much of a commitment they have to make in order for an investigation to take place. The truth is that most people quickly forget that the investigation is the product that they are purchasing. It’s true, we are the investigators and it is up to us to decide (in most cases) how the investigation will be done, what it will include or exclude, and how much it will cost, but ultimately, each investigation belongs to the client. As such, how far we go is really up to you and your legal team.
Some investigation agencies will try to sell you services you need or don’t want, and they will quickly branch a simple investigation into a complex multi-tier investigation with security considerations, and sometimes even the installation of cameras or security systems. However, none of that is a necessary requirement for most investigations. A reputable firm should meet with you and/or your counsel, and will ask you a series of questions that are structured to reveal what your core questions are, and also help determine how you hope the information obtained will benefit you. Based on the information you provide, the investigator will explain the options that are available to you, and additional avenues that may be available to your lawyer on your behalf. He or she should also give you an estimated cost and time frame for the investigation. The entire process should be low-pressure, with no rush (unless there is a specific time requirement on your part legally), and should be comfortably informative. If you are experiencing anything other than that, then I caution you to continue your search for an investigator.
It’s true that the scope of an investigation can change several times as an investigation progresses, but you should always be aware of (or be directing) those changes, and have a strong understanding of how those changes will impact your case. Don’t be shy about asking questions, or even asking to stop the investigation at any time if you feel it isn’t serving your purpose. At most, you may be advised that work ordered outside is underway and in some cases cannot be stopped on a dime, or may result in financial costs, but you should always feel as though it is your investigation, and you control it.
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It is the responsibility of the private investigator and/or private investigation firm to act responsibly, ethically, and competently from the moment we learn about you as a potential client to the moment your investigation ends. Regardless of who you choose to help you, it is your right to understand what is being done for you, that it is being done legally, and what, if any, liability falls upon you. In terms of commitment, your requirement will always be clearly discussed during the initial meeting and generally includes: promising to provide accurate information as you believe you know it, providing payment by the terms agreed upon, and allowing the investigators to conduct the investigation without frequent interruption for updates (of course you can make inquiries but you must remain patient).
And on a final note, no reputable investigator will ever provide you with anything other than the true results that they have found.