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Home < Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator < Can You Sue Someone for Hiring a Private Investigator

Can You Sue Someone For Hiring A Private Investigator?

Can You Sue Someone For Hiring A Private Investigator

People can hire private investigators for a variety of matters, such as uncovering cheating partners, financial fraud, business fraud, and more. They can help you locate a missing person, perform a background check on an individual you’re interested in, and even gain evidence to support a legal case.

But what are the legal limits? Can you sue someone for hiring a private investigator?

The short answer is – yes, in some cases, you can sue. A private investigator and the hirer can be sued, depending on the circumstances. While hiring a private investigator is not illegal, it can sometimes result in legal action being taken against the investigator or whoever hired them.

Why Somebody Would Want to Sue a Private Investigator

Let’s take a closer look at the possible scenarios where legal action could happen. Let’s explore why someone would want to sue another person for conducting a private investigation, as it can happen for several reasons.

Hiring a private investigator can result in legal action if the investigator violates a person’s privacy, or engages in illegal activities. If you hire an investigator to perform a background check on somebody, this alone is not enough for legal action to be taken. The investigator can look for all necessary information without breaking any ethical or legal rules. They can look into public records and find what they were looking for.

However, the investigation can become illegal if legal boundaries are crossed. For example, if the detective gains access into personal accounts without proper authorization or sets up a spy camera in an area where an expectation of privacy is high - as in a bedroom. This could lead to legal consequences for both the investigator and possibly the person who hired them (with the potential of being sued).

In other words, it’s not so much about the fact that someone is being followed or investigated, but rather about how the investigation is conducted. If the investigation does not cause any unnecessary or unreasonable harm and there are no crimes committed, then it is legal, and no recourse of pursuing a lawsuit against the investigator or whoever hired them can be made.

An important point to make here is that just because a person is offended or upset about being investigated, is irrelevant, just so long as the investigation is truly justifiable. So, as long as the private investigator follows the rules, no one, not even a dishonest adulterer or criminal, can prevent a legitimate investigation by filing a lawsuit against them.

Who Can You Sue? The Investigator or The Hirer?

If the private investigator were to violate legal standards, who is held responsible? In order to sue another for using a private investigator you will need to prove:

  1. The investigator did something unlawful.
  2. You suffered damages as a result of the investigator’s actions.
  3. The investigator was acting under the direction of the third party who knew the investigator was going to do something wrong and did nothing to stop them.

If a private investigator engages in illegal or unethical behavior (such as harassment, invasion of privacy, trespassing, etc.), they can personally be held responsible and sued.

And, if it’s proven that the person who hired the investigator instructed them to do so, or had knowledge of the investigator’s questionable activities but did nothing to stop it, they too can be held accountable. In some cases, the third-party hirer can be considered an accomplice in the illegal activities and are open to pursuit of reparations for damages through the courts; even open to criminal investigation themselves.

Ultimately though, this all depends on specific laws and regulations in each jurisdiction.

When a Private Investigator Can and Can’t Be Sued

Let’s take a look at some examples of situations where a private investigator can or can’t be sued.

A private investigator can be sued if:

  • They use illegal methods to gain information.
  • They violate an individual’s right to privacy.
  • They break any laws during the investigation.

A private investigator cannot be sued if:

  • They conduct the investigation within legal and ethical boundaries.
  • They don’t cause unreasonable or unjustified harm to the individual being investigated or other parties.
  • They don’t breach any laws.
  • They don’t commit any crimes or theft.

Now, let’s look at some applicable laws that allow for a private investigator, or someone hiring one, to be sued. Some of the common reasons for potential lawsuits include the invasion of privacy, trespassing, harassment or stalking, wiretapping and eavesdropping, and defamation.

At the federal level, the following laws are applicable:

  1. Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  2. Federal Wiretap Act.
  3. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
  4. The Wire and Electronic Communications Interception and Interception of Oral Communications Act.
  5. Civil Rights Act.

However, federal laws are general national guidelines related to privacy and surveillance, but the regulation of private investigations is primarily done on a state-level. Each state has its own set of regulations and guidelines.

Can You Sue a Private Investigator for Invasion of Privacy?

In some cases, private investigators can be sued for invasion of privacy. The right to privacy is a fundamental human right and it is recognized by most legal systems. Specifically, when a person suspects that they are being followed, they have every right to inform the police. And if the investigator is constantly contacting or following the person in an obvious way, this can be considered harassment and invasion of privacy.

Additionally, the investigator is not allowed to enter a person’s private property without consent. This can also result in legal action. Another example of an invasion of privacy is certain uses with hidden cameras, or surveillance, to spy on someone. In these cases, the private investigator can be sued for invasion of privacy.

However, if the investigator is well-trained, they can conduct a private investigation without invading the right to privacy. For example, observing an individual from a distance without intruding on their property, without harassment, or any other illegal act, is considered legal and not an invasion of privacy.

Keep in mind, the majority of private investigators are professionals in their field and use methods of investigating that are within the law. Most of them communicate with legal advisors to ensure that no regulations are being violated and the right to privacy is protected throughout the investigation; therefore, closing the door on any potential civil lawsuit against them, or the clients who hire them, to be successful. This does not mean there aren’t private investigators who can be sued; unfortunately there is a minority of untrained or bad investigators that can be.

What to Remember About Suing Someone for Hiring a Private Investigator

  1. A private investigator can be sued if they engage in illegal activities during the investigation and/or causes unreasonable damage or harm to the person.
  2. Some of the most common reasons for filing a legal claim against a private investigator are invasion of privacy, harassment, trespassing, wiretapping, and actions that lead to defamation.
  3. In some circumstances, both the investigator and, by extension, the person who hired them can face legal action.
  4. If the investigator performs the investigation within legal standards and without endangering anyone, they cannot be sued.
  5. It is important to remember that the right to privacy is a fundamental human right and should be respected throughout the investigation.
  6. There is no prevention or recourse to sue an investigator during a legitimate investigation just because a person doesn’t want to be investigated.

In conclusion, there are no grounds for suing someone for hiring a private investigator in itself, but the type of conduct performed throughout the investigation - if dishonest or illegal - allows for someone to take legal action that can result in suing either the investigator, the hirer, or both.
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