Interviews & Statements
The most efficient way to determine what happened in a case is through a systematic investigation. Talking to your clients and witnesses will enable you to understand the facts of a case, making it easier to decide if a case should go to trial or settle.
The earlier you can secure this information, the more reliable the information will be. Once you obtain the meat of an interview, it can be decided if a formal statement should be pursued.
An investigator conducting an interview can assess the reliability of a witness and how they would present themselves in court. Obviously, an attorney NEVER wants to be surprised when a witness testifies.
Service of Process
Service of process is a valuable tool in the Discovery or Trial Preparation procedures. Obtaining medical records, employment records or financial records can be of importance in determining the ultimate value of a claim. Locating and serving witnesses for Deposition can be of value in evaluating their ultimate value at trial. This can make a difference in deciding if a case is settled or whether it is worth taking to trial.
It is not only important to know the facts in a case, but also who you are dealing with. Knowing the background of the Plaintiff, witnesses, and even your client can be of great value when preparing your case. Several years ago, I was asked by a client to serve a witness with a Deposition Subpoena. The service was uneventful, and the witness seemed cooperative. When he appeared for his Deposition, the opposing counsel asked if he had ever been convicted of a felony. He answered in the affirmative.
When asked what he was convicted of, he said, "Perjury"! That, of course, put into question everything he had testified to. The following day, my client called and stated that a background check would have been beneficial.
Public Records Research
Public records research goes hand in hand with a background investigation. Determining someone's criminal history and the frequency they filed civil lawsuits can be of extreme value to a client. Checking for past complaints on property problems or pulling building permits can aid in dealing with Premises Liability issues.
Sub Rosa Investigations
The idea of sub Rosa investigations dates back to ancient Greco-Roman times. The rose was a symbol of secrecy. Today the term is used to denote secret photographing or videos. Commonly, it is used in fraud investigations to determine if a claimant or Plaintiff is conducting activities that they claim they cannot do. This can be very important in determining the value, if any, of a claim. Sometime ago we were asked to obtain video of a Plaintiff thinking. Seems like an odd request. The Plaintiff claimed he had cognitive problems. What we could do was take video of him driving, going to the market or banking. This could prove he could conduct normal “thinking” activities. Strange, but true.