The investigation work associated with insurance claims is often sub-contracted to private investigation firms. Although sub-contacting can be a good way to get investigations done quickly, problems can arise during the investigation process that can both annoy and inconvenience insurers. From late delivery of reports to poor communication, there is a litany of common mistakes that private investigators make that can put insurers off side and drive their business to other vendors.
Here are eight things that investigators should stop doing now!
1. Preventing real-time access
It is important for an investigator to allow clients real time access to a case as it is being worked. This leads to a more collaborative approach and it also gives legal firms the ability to guide and contribute to the process. This is especially advantageous where there are complex legal issues that need to be addressed.
2. Delivering late
Sometimes despite the best efforts of an investigator, deadlines are missed. This late delivery of reports can be a major inconvenience for the stakeholders involved. To help minimise the inconvenience caused, it is important for an investigator to let all relevant parties know if a report has been delayed as soon as possible. They should also keep these parties updated in real time as the report progresses and have plans in place to help resolve the delays.
3. Failing to notify of issues
If any issues are identified during the investigation, it is imperative that an investigator shares these issues with insurers as soon as possible to help reduce delays and avoid problems down the track.
4. Delivering hard to read reports
Often investigators turn in reports that are hard to decipher. Poorly written reports can make extracting information frustrating and time consuming for clients. A good report should be a summary of the investigation and the evidence. Reports should be concise, free from duplication and errors, and be well set out.
5. Providing too much information
Clogging up a report with too much information is a trap which many investigators fall into – reports should be short and to the point. Investigators should avoid waffling or regurgitating the contents of the attached products, such as statements, interviews or video in the report. If there are key points that need emphasising they should be listed in easily identifiable bullet points.
6. Failing to conduct adequate interviews
This may seem obvious, but good interviewing skills are a must and there is no excuse for an investigator failing to ask the right questions. Thoroughly questioning leads and contacts is a vital part of the groundwork that goes into preparing a good report. As part of the interview process investigators should always remember to:
* Ask for comment. Before addressing specific issues let the interviewee share their version with minimal interruption.
* Address all areas when conducting the interview.
* Identify all witnesses mentioned in any statement.
7. Poorly explaining videos
Another area, in which many investigators commonly fall short, is in providing adequate explanations for video evidence. An investigator should always provide the following information when presenting a video to a client:
* When and why video footage starts and stops.
* The relevance of specific sections of the video.
* If the video in question is an excerpt from a longer video, explain why it was cut out and which video file it was cut from.
* Clearly identify who recorded each video.
8. Inadequately addressing legal issues
Failing to address legal issues as they arise is a big no-no for any investigator. Not only does this reflect poorly on the investigator and their agency, it can also cause significant hassles down the line for the client. Where there are complex legal issues to be addressed, there should be no hesitation in asking for advice, especially if there is any ambiguity as to the best course of action or if there are other issues that need to be addressed.
In my experience, the best way to make sure your investigators are aware of these issues is to run regular and relevant training courses. If possible, it is also a good idea to provide them with templates that assist them in recalling the key issues that they need to address as part of the investigation process. Templates are simple, easy to prepare, and help ensure that all the information required to perform a thorough investigation is collected.
To help you build your resources, we have provided a simple checklist for a motor vehicle scene examination and a sketch guide for your use. Feel free to use these documents as they are or edit them to suit your own needs.
To thine own self be true.