Experienced paralegals possess a unique, critical capability when it comes to researching the facts of the case. However, knowing when further investigation is needed is a critical skill - often the results of a paralegal’s search are only the beginning of a factual investigation. If something looks off in the results of a TLOxp search, it probably is and it warrants further scrutiny.
‘Failing to notice these red flags and bring in an investigator when you need one could mean overlooking important case information. In turn, that might cause a lawyer to be unprepared for trial, a worse outcome for the client and, of course, the possibility of embarrassment.
5 Signs That Your TLOxp, Delvepoint, and LexisNexis Results Need Further Investigation
Some research is open and shut: paralegals can easily confirm important information about a defendant or the particulars of a case easily However, many cases aren’t so straightforward. Paralegals and attorneys should be on the lookout for the following red flags in a database person search that indicate further investigative work is needed to ensure a solid, successful case.
- Many aliases, addresses or phone numbers – Most people have up to 20 legitimate aliases, mostly as a result of various spellings of their name; if your research shows an individual with many more, something is likely off. A large number of addresses or phone numbers (more than seems reasonable for the subject’s age or circumstance) can indicate a transient or unstable lifestyle, which may be pertinent to your case.
- Liens (especially a large number) – Liens, particularly for failing to pay taxes, are not a good sign. Even someone with a good credit score and no bankruptcies can have liens, which can indicate they have trouble managing money, problems with their business or other issues. An inability to manage finances could be an important component to family law cases, or could indicate that a defendant is effectively judgment-proof”, that they will never have the ability to pay any judgments against them.
- Discrepancies in income and housing value – A large discrepancy between income and average price of housing in the area in which the individual lives should raise a red flag. For example, a person with a low household income living in a neighborhood where the average home price is $2.5 million. This quite simply doesn’t add up. Depending on the subject, these differences in housing and income may warrant bringing in a private investigator to look more into the neighborhood and the individual’s associates to better understand the discrepancies. This can be particularly useful if you are seeking payment from a client or defendant that is crying poor.
- Vehicles and assets just don’t fit – Like housing, vehicles and assets that don’t fit a person’s lifestyle, means or income, require further investigation. For example, a person owning many vehicles could indicate reckless driving, or could be explained by wealthy parents or a family inheritance. If you are interested in someone’s character, or in someone’s true wealth, this is useful information that requires further investigation.
- Too many LLCs associated with the subject – Many business owners have multiple LLCs for completely legitimate reasons (one LLC for the operating company, one for the holding company). However, if the subject of your investigation has racked up a large number of LLCs, it could mean they are taking steps to hide their identity from public view for illicit reasons.
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If any of these red flags appear during your TLOxp research, your firm would be best served by bringing in an outside expert to ensure there aren’t any surprises come trial time.
The Bottom line: Private Investigators Boost Factual Research
Licensed private investigators can conduct research outside the scope of work a paralegal can legally perform. Because of this, they’re able to uncover information would be both useful to your case and help prevent any surprises during a trial.
Part of a paralegal’s due diligence is to help ensure an air-tight case. And sometimes that means bringing in outside investigative help. In the long run, it will save your firm time, money, and oftentimes change the case outcome altogether.