Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator

Some important points to consider in evaluating which private investigator to work with.

Make sure they are licensed. California requires private investigators to be licensed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, (BSIS).  This ensures the investigator has met the state minimum requirement of 6000 hours of previous law enforcement or investigative employment and that they have passed the state PI exam.  Private Investigators are issued a license by the state and should be able to produce a copy of their license upon request.  You can verify the status of a California Private Investigators license at:  http://www2.dca.ca.gov/pls/wllpub/wllqryna$lcev2.startup?p_qte_code=PI&p_qte_pgm_code=2420

Do you need to meet with the P.I.? Not unless you want to.  The P.I industry, like many other industries are adapting new technology to save time and operate more efficiently. Technology also makes it easy to consult with prospective P.I’s over the phone and to exchange case information, review retainer agreements or contracts via e-mail.  The formality of a meeting is usually not necessary.  For complex cases or cases where you will be making a significant financial investment in your investigator, a meeting may be in order.   

Always get a contract. Like any other service, you should get a contract or retainer agreement that spells out what you are hiring the P.I. for and what you will get in return. If they cannot or will not present you with a contract, look for someone who will.

Experience. It is important that you know the qualifications and experience of the investigator that will be working on your case. Unfortunately, results are not guaranteed in investigative work, all an investigator can do is attempt to find what information is available and report it to the client. The more experienced the investigator, the greater the likelihood that your desired results will be achieved. Another consideration may be former law enforcement, military, security, medical or other specialty industry experience that gives them skills to do the specific job you are hiring them to do. Review any prospective Private Investigators experience carefully and ask for references before you commit.

Are they insured? The private investigator you hire is working for you, as your agent. If they damage someone’s property, get in a car accident, present false information, etc. while working on your behalf, they should have ample insurance to cover any loses that may occur. If not, you, as their employer are also exposed to liability. It is just good common sense to check for insurance coverage before you hire a PI. Hunt Private Investigations carries two million dollars in liability coverage to protect our clients. It should be no problem for a reputable investigator to present a certificate of insurance coverage for you to review and verify.

What does it cost to hire a P.I.? Private Investigator’s provide a service much like attorneys do.  And like attorney’s, their fees vary based upon a number of factors including, experience in the P.I. industry, expertise in a specific investigative specialty, etc.  Some Private Investigators charge a flat fee for their services, others charge by the hour and some, like Hunt Private Investigations do both depending upon the work requested.  If you follow the suggestions in this article, check references and feel comfortable working with the P.I. you hire, you should have a good experience.  If cost is your primary consideration, remember not all doctors or lawyers are equal and neither are all P.I.’s. In the end, you get what you pay for! 

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