Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Witness Statements



Many different kinds of clients seek out the assistance of a private investigator to take witness statements. Lawyers need witness statements for family, civil and criminal matters. Insurance companies need witness statements related to accidents and other insurance claims. Private clients often seek out an investigator for witness statements for a variety of reasons.

Using a private investigator to take witness statements is an invaluable tool. For example, for insurance claims, it allows the investigator to obtain the facts of a loss, from the perspective of an involved party or a witness. It also gives the investigator the opportunity to corroborate or disprove the information they have been provided in the initial claims assignment.

In criminal or civil matters, a private investigator can gather key pieces of evidence for court. Private investigators can blend into communities and talk to people in a way law enforcement cannot. Often they can gather information that was initially missed or uncover witnesses who did want to speak to police. Private investigators also have the tools to search for witnesses that may have disappeared and then find them to take statements.

Many private clients ask why they can’t just get witness statements themselves if they know what they need. The reality is if this is for a case that is going to criminal or civil court, these statements gathered won’t hold much weight. It’s imperative to have a trained, licensed third party private investigator obtain the information and testify for you in court if needed. They can speak to how the statement was obtained as well as a whole host of other information they gather.

In addition, most clients are not trained interviewers. They do not know the proper questions to ask or how to ask them.

"For example, asking "open ended" questions can provide an avenue to other information you may not know was available," says Ron M., an investigator with Mission Possible Investigations. "An untrained interviewer may simply ask "closed ended" questions, which may only prompt a "yes or no" response from the subject. In addition, the client may not be a trained observer to notice such important factors as body language, eye contact or lack thereof and other critical nonverbal communication that often lets a trained investigator know far more than the words being said. A trained interviewer also develops a sense of when the subject is being evasive, has the skills to assess truth from lies and has the skills required to obtain answers that will "lock in" the subject to their story."

A good interviewer will be able to put witnesses at ease, build rapport, and explain the purpose of the interview in an emotionally detached way. Clients are often too close to the information to be able to step back enough to make the subject comfortable. Investigators also are trained to ask the question and then wait out the response without interruption. Because the investigator is an outside party to the situation, they are unbiased. They can ensure those being interviewed understand that the information they have provided was given freely, with no promises made for any inducements, and that their answers were true, to the best of their belief.

A good investigator will also assess the best environment to conduct the interview. They can work with the subject to choose a place where there will be less interruptions and therefore better flow to the communication. Pets and children can easily disrupt the flow and get the subject off track, having them forget or miss key details. Investigators can also keep the pace of the interview on track, especially challenging with subjects that are talkers and who might ramble and get off subject easily. Balance is key in these areas and good trained investigators know how to set the tone for the interview to maximize the most truthful informative responses.

Mission Possible Investigations recently brought an additional investigator who specializes in witness statements. Give us a call for more information 518-708-1219.

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