When hiring a Private Investigator for Infidelity or Cheating Spouse cases, many times, there are many factors to keep in mind and consider. Obvious one are cost, confidentiality and ensuring the safety of children involved. While these are all highly important to keep in mind, one of the most non talked about are the expectations the client can have in regards to the investigation.
Some of the expectations we try to set help the client to understand the true nature and potential outcomes of the investigative event. The first of these is that, as a licensed Colorado private investigator, we must have a contract with every client except in certain situations where the client is a law firm, insurance company, or another private investigation company. This is not only required by law, but is a highly recommended practice for anyone working in a legal profession. The contract, retainer agreement, engagement agreement, or whatever it is called is there for the use and protection of both parties including the client and the private investigator.
What does the contract state? At the very least it needs to state the names and addresses of both parties, the work being hired to do, the expected fees for the investigation and any terms about the termination of the contract. Some of the other items that can be expected to be in the contract are things such as a noninterference clause, confidentiality clause, reporting manner and time frame and disclaimer for warranties or guarantees. Let’s take a brief look at each of these areas of the private investigators contract.
The work being hired to do should be clearly spelled out so the client understand exactly what the investigative firm will be doing on their behalf, as well so the private investigator knows what he or she is expected to do. Sometimes this needs to be a bit ambiguous such as “Conduct an Infidelity Investigation to include surveillance and a social media investigation as well as background investigations as deemed necessary by the investigative consultant.” Other times it may need to be much more direct when there are specific duties being asked for such as “Conduct covert surveillance on the Client’s residence on 01/01/1901 from 6:00 PM until 12:00 AM and record all activities observed.”
The cost to the client needs to be spelled out as best as possible as well to ensure the client understands what they will have to pay up front, and ongoing if the need arises. An upfront fee is generally referred to as a Retainer Fee. This is money paid in lieu of the work being done at a future point in time. Generally a retainer is money held by the PI and is used to pay for costs and investigation work , as it occurs. Any unused funds in the retainer is due back to the client at the conclusion of the investigation. Sometimes however with minor and very explicitly spelled out work the retainer may be the payment in full and non reimbursable due to minimums or other factors. If there are hourly fees these should be clearly spelled out, along with mileage costs and other expenses that may occur, holiday pay, short notice request pay, pay for work scheduled if the client cancels the contract, court appearance fees, etc.
The term of the contract, when will the investigation start and end, should be clearly notated as well in the PI contract. Any conditions as to automatic renewal or termination should also be clearly understandable. Many contract may have a clause such that the investigation will continue for up to a certain date in the future, or until retainer funds are exhausted.
A noninterference clause is a statement letting the client know that they cannot interfere in anyway with the investigation. This usually includes such things as driving by or calling the PI during surveillance, interviewing witnesses on their own, letting the other party know they are being investigated etc. This clause is there to ensure the integrity of the investigation for the client as well to maintain safety for the investigators working the case.
Confidentiality is a must in every case for a Private Investigator. That confidentiality goes both ways as well. The client needs to know that their information is safe guarded as well the PI needs to know the information they provide will not be used in a malicious way or given to others with no need to know about it. A good confidentiality clause will allow the information gathered during the investigation to be utilized in a legal manner within the scope of the investigation while it protects both parties ensuring they are kept confidential. Many times PI may not provide confidential information to the client directly but only to the clients attorney, thus adding another layer of protection for all parties involved.
How and when will reporting be done? Some investigators only give oral updates to the client on certain types of cases such as cheating spouse or a cheating partner or infidelity when there is no attorney involved. These oral investigation reports may be done in person or via phone. This type of report is usually fairly brief and succinct such as “On Monday, 01/01/1901, we conducted surveillance on your spouse and observed him with an unidentified female subject. From our observations it appeared that the two subjects were romantically involved as there was a significant amount of physical contact between them to include, hand holding and kissing. They were followed to a hotel in the downtown area around 10:00 PM and were not observed leaving prior to the conclusion of our investigation at 2:00 AM the following morning” Other times a very detailed written report may be provided to include photos, pictures and video with complex time frames and description of all of the events that occurred during the investigation.
A standard clause in most investigative contracts is a Guarantees & Warranties Clause. This is usually something fairly general and to the point such as “By the very nature of investigations we cannot guarantee any outcomes of our investigation nor do we warranty any work based on the investigative outcome.” While in some areas of legal work, such as attorneys work, they can work based contingent on the outcome, e.g. If we win the case for you then you pay us our fee. However, a Private Investigator is precluded by law in most cases form doing this. As a detective we are hired to find and uncover the facts as they are presented to us during the investigation. We cannot go out and make these facts occur or create evidence that is false, thus we can only gather what evidence that presents itself during our investigation.
In Colorado there are some other specific things an Investigation Contract must do. Every contract a Private Investigator has must have a way for either party to end the contract. This can be done with a cancel by date, cancel within a time frame statement, cancel prior to work begin clause etc. This allows either party to fairly back out of the agreement with minimal effect on the other party.
Other items that may be covered in a good Private Investigation Contract are such things as Credit Card Authorization, Indemnification, Attorneys fees, Governing Law, Misrepresentation, etc. There is no comprehensive list of what is and what is not in an investigative contract. Most states have laws in regards to PI Licensing that cover some of the requirements for that state, as well there could be other laws that speak to contracts as a whole an what can and cannot be allowed. You should check with your state, city and federal government laws to determine what is required. As with all matters of legality it is always recommended to have an attorney read through any contract prior to signing it.
While this list is not exhaustive, and in no way represents any legal advice as to how to write or interpret a contract, it is hopeful that it has provided some insight as to the complexity of the Private Investigators Contract.
~ John L. Morris
A Northern Colorado, licensed and insured, Greeley Private Investigator
Call today for your 100% FREE Private Investigator Consultation (970) 673-5719
* EVCO LLC, EVCO Investigations, John Morris and the author of any of our articles, posts and pages do not present any information on this website as legal advice or any other advice in particular. All postings, writings, and pages on this website are for informational use only and everyone is encouraged to always seek professional and legal advise in all matters.
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