For many, the word “private investigator” triggers images of fictional characters involved in high-speed chases through large cities. They routinely have guns pulled on them. They investigate murders and find the perpetrators.
Fictional private investigators rescue kidnap victims or may themselves be kidnapped. They get thrown out of places (sometimes physically). Remember Eddie Murphy’s character, Axel Foley, in “Beverly Hills Cop”? Foley was lifted up by four men and thrown through a large and previously closed window for investigating his friend’s murder.
These are our images of private investigators–not someone sitting in an office doing background checks. Real life private investigators aren’t as adventure-prone as fictional characters. Yet, they can provide critical evidence for your case.
Why Hire a Private Investigator?
The most important reason to hire a private investigator is that they can save time and money. Too, they can help you get a favorable settlement or judgment. Private investigators can collect evidence and locate witnesses. They can serve subpoenas and notices, and identify assets. Generally, they can put themselves in places where you may be reluctant to go.
How Private Investigators Help
Private investigators access the information we all give them. We use Facebook, Google, blogs, and services like PayPal to transact daily business. We text, email, and search online. Anyone who sells products or services provides information. Sales software compiles reports on anyone who looks at a merchant’s webpages.
Private investigators use software to access this information. They search billions of records for evidence you need to win your case. They can also appear in person to do certain other things depending on what you need.
Examples of Pro Se Use of Private Investigators
In motor vehicle injury cases, private investigators can access motor vehicle records, lien holder’s account numbers, and insurance policy information. Their software can plot positions of a motor vehicle on a map to ascertain travel patterns. It can reveal a vehicle owner’s associations, relationships, friends, and family.
In premises liability cases, private investigators can visit scenes of accidents. They can address gaps in interrogatories by questioning witnesses and customers. They can take pictures and investigate the history of a company or the history of incidents and events. Private investigators do this type of thing for law firms. Why not have them do it for you?
We’re all familiar with the “investigator” that takes pictures of a spouse cheating. Yet, there are many other uses for private investigators. If you’re divorcing or attempting to collect child support, a private investigator can find addresses. The same investigator can give you a report of your spouse’s employer, income, assets, and relationships.
The investigator can locate assets to help you collect back child support payments on a judgment you’ve already won. And yes, an investigator can find evidence that the spouse you’re divorcing committed adultery. On that, you may be able to get higher alimony payments, child support, and ownership of your home.
Predatory Lending & Unlawful Repossession
Are you the victim of a predatory loan or unlawful repossession? Private investigators can use software and credit bureau data to help you sue or defend yourself. They can also research the company that took your car.
An investigator may find evidence that lawyers have been prosecuted for trying to collect loans for a payday loan company. You may find that the U.S. Department of Justice brought a class action suit against your auto finance company. In short, a private investigator can dig up the dirt you need to sue or defend yourself.
Using Evidence from Private Investigators in Litigation
You’ve got your evidence. Now it’s time to bring it into the case. The first thing to do is check the evidence code in your jurisdiction. It will tell you what’s necessary to bring in evidence from a private investigator. Below are general things to remember.
You want all the evidence you use in your case to be as accessible as possible. That requires organization whether the evidence is from a private investigator or collected through discovery.
Courts require that documents and photographs from a private investigator, like other evidence, be indexed, labeled, and organized in a logical way. The records must be clear and easy to read with abstracts and summaries.
It’s also good to include a table or list of case facts. Label each fact, and note whether the fact is agreed or disputed. Note whether the fact is material or immaterial, and identify which documents and evidence support which facts.
To be admissible in court, documents, records, photographs, and other things obtained by a private investigator must be notarized, certified or presented in person. For example, you can ask the investigator to swear under oath to a notary that the evidence he or she has gathered is authentic, truthful, trustworthy, etc.
Or you can put the private investigator on the stand. That is, make him a witness in the case. Let him say how he gathered the information and from where. The private investigator can also identify witnesses who can themselves present admissible evidence on the stand. All of this helps to prove your case and bring in your evidence.
Alternatively, put forth self-authenticating documents and photographs. That is, present evidence that is in the public domain and can be found in reputable locations like the Library of Congress, the National Archives or even a court clerk’s office. This evidence can be gathered by a private investigator. Yet, it does not require certification, notarization, or in-person presentation.
For many people, the word “private investigator” triggers images of fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, Rockford, Monk, Gil Grissom, and Jessica Fletcher. Fiction.
Real private investigators get no “game” in the adventure department. Heck, even Inspector Gadget gets more attention than today’s real life private investigators. Yet, private investigators can get you evidence to achieve your litigation goals.
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