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Can Your Clients Get Sued for Hiring a PI

Can Your Clients Get Sued for Hiring a Private Investigator? Here’s What PIs Should Know

Cautious clients may have concerns about hiring a private investigator and what kind of consequences they might face. At a minimum, clients may want to avoid letting a spouse, coworker, or family member know that they’re hiring a PI. But there’s another risk that clients are more aware than ever: The chance that they could get sued for hiring a private investigator.

Is this a real threat? Is the act of hiring a PI enough to get sued? Not usually, but it does depend on the situation. Here are a few facts that PIs should know when considering if their clients could get sued (and what to do about it).

Yes, People Can Sue Over Hiring a Private Investigator

As the old saying goes, you can sue anyone for anything. Well, that’s not entirely true, but suing over hiring a private investigator is certainly a possibility. People may feel betrayed, scared, or angry if they find out someone hired a private investigator, no matter the reason. That can lead to some tricky legal situations, including threats and lawsuits. In other cases, people might sue in an effort to stop a private investigator from learning something they want to stay hidden.

These cases don’t always fare well in court or even make it to court, but they can still pose risks for clients relying on PIs, as well as the private investigator business itself. So yes, getting sued over using your PI services could happen, especially when tempers get hot. Lawsuits like these, even if frivolous, tend to make a lot of claims about a client using a PI to harass or intimidate people. That brings us to another important consideration…your own actions.

A PI’s Actions Could Lead to a Lawsuit If It Seems Like They Broke a Law

As a private investigator, it’s important that you avoid giving someone any reason to sue your client. You can’t always stop a lawsuit if someone is determined, but you can avoid giving them anything to work with. That’s important if another party hires a new private investigator to collect evidence on you and your client.

That boils down to following the law. No false online identities made to fool people, no spy cams, no trespassing, no invasions of privacy. For more details on how PIs can stay on the right side of the law, review other insights in our blog where we go into details about these situations. When PIs do cross a line, that provides people with evidence that they can use to sue both the PI and the person who hired them. With this evidence, it’s far more likely that an attorney will take their case.

PIs should also avoid the appearance of harassment or stalking, another common cause of lawsuits like these. That can be more difficult when surveilling or gathering evidence. Private investigators should avoid following people too closely and other behavior that could be construed as harassment or invasion of privacy. Remember, people can sue over anything from emotional distress to interference in business operations.

Don’t Accept Clients Who Ask You To Break the Law

A client is much more likely to be sued if they want to break the law – and private investigators can get roped into many unusual cases like this. A desperate or angry client may push a PI to intimidate someone, manufacture evidence that something happened, falsely impersonate someone (including themselves), and much more. Any actions like that open the door not only for successful lawsuits, but deep trouble for your business.

Situations like this aren’t easy, but it’s important to refuse clients who are asking you to break the law, even if you have no intention of doing so. If a client starts raising the possibility of these actions, that’s useful sufficient grounds to terminate your contract and end the relationship.

Some Exceptions Exist, Notably When Working with Government Bodies

While people can come up with all sorts of reasons to sue your client, there are a few notable situations where it’s just not possible or very unlikely to happen. One of the most common examples is when private investigators work with law enforcement or prosecutors. While a private person can sue the government, it’s rare and everyone involved has certain protections which can make them immune to certain kinds of lawsuits. Even when it’s possible, the government generally has to acknowledge that a person has a claim for the lawsuit to go anywhere.

Another example would be working for a corporation or law firm. You can sue these entities too, but it’s much less likely. There’s less likely to be personal feelings or injury involved, and the requirements for evidence will be higher.

Look at Actions Through the Eyes of the Court

Any successful lawsuit will need to prove damages in court, or at least present evidence of damages or injury in an effort to settle or deal with a mediation process. If you’re ever concerned that your client will get sued, consider someone’s ability to prove damages.

For example, does someone have evidence that your client was abusive or demonstrated harassing behavior prior to hiring a PI? Has someone filed a police report against your client or against you (even if you believe you stayed in the bounds of the law)? The legal system is much more likely to take cases with this kind of evidence seriously, and that can often lead to a lawsuit.

Final Notes

Remember, a lawsuit that targets someone for hiring a private investigator is almost certainly going to include the PI as well. Regardless of what the lawsuit claims, this can be an expensive process for the PI. That’s one reason that having proper liability insurance is so important for PIs, even those doing part-time work. If you have any questions, give one of our insurance experts a call!

El Dorado can provide premium protection at an affordable price. Give El Dorado Insurance a call today to make sure you are fully covered or find out what kind of insurance needs a Private Investigator might have.

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