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Tales of a PI: Interview and Witness Statements

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Car accidents happen. When they do, it’s often difficult to tell which party is truly at fault. Drivers often don’t want to admit when they’ve made a mistake, especially if they know they’ll end up paying for the damages. This is where a private investigator can help. In Ontario, Lawyers and insurance companies often hire private eyes to investigate, interview and find a reliable witness. They can then use the data obtained like a witness statement or other forms of valid evidence, in court.

Sometimes, however, the truth is difficult to find, but not impossible. As one of our private investigators found out for herself: sometimes the truth lies with a hotdog vendor.

The Case

A lawyer hired one of our private investigators to find a witness for a motor vehicle accident. In ordinary circumstances, finding a witness sounds like an easy enough task. The only problem? This case required our private investigator to locate a find a witness for an accident that occurred 5 years prior.

So, how does a private investigator go about tracking down a witness in this situation?

Our investigator took matters into her own hands and hit the pavement. She visited the site of the accident. After taking note of the businesses in the surrounding area, she paid a visit to each to speak with employees, business owners and other individuals to find out if anyone remembered the accident that had occurred just outside their doors.

Private Investigator Skills and Strategy

Now, a good private investigator won’t just walk into a place and start firing off questions. The moment a person feels threatened or intimidated, they become much less willing to talk and share information.

The strategy our private eye used in this situation is considered a very “old school” skill within the industry. People respond to a friendly face and personality. When approached in the right way, they tend naturally give information without any prompting or prying.

It’s actually why female private investigators tend to excel in interviews and gathering witness statements. This isn’t to say that men aren’t as successful at it, but let’s say a burly looking gentlemen shows up at your business and starts asking questions about a car accident. Wouldn’t you have a few questions of your own?

In general, the skill and strategy behind interviews require a private investigator to have a basic understanding of human behaviour. Our investigator conducted interviews with a strategy that got her the information she needed to move the case forward.

Dig a Little Deeper: The Hot Dog Vendor

Most people our private investigator interviewed didn’t know anything about the accident. Determined to find a witness, she returned to the site the following day to try and catch anyone she might have missed the day before. This time, she found a witness who remembered that their local hot dog vendor would have been outside at the time of the accident.

Our private investigator hadn’t seen the hot dog vendor during her visit on either day. However, because she had laid the groundwork with the people she interviewed, one person happily supplied the information she needed. The hot dog vendor typically only worked during the week.

Before our private investigator tried to dive straight into an interview, she spent the next few days digging up information on hot dog vendors. She researched permits, licenses and more, just to try and track down this key witness.

Approaching the Witness

When our private investigator had the information she needed, she returned to the site of the accident during the week. Sure enough, a hot dog vendor had set up nearby. Using the same technique she had with her other interviews, the private investigator ordered a hot dog and started a casual conversation.

Without any prompting, the hot dog vendor asked our private investigator what she was doing in the area. Our investigator told the vendor the truth: that she was investigating an accident that occurred a few years ago and that so far, no one could help her.

Using this “old school” technique, our private investigator’s strategy had the hot dog vendor opening up. He immediately told her, “Oh! I saw that accident!” The hot dog vendor proceeded to spill all the details about the vehicles, the drivers and even identified who was at fault.

Getting a Witness Statement

When our private investigator asked the hot dog vendor to provide a statement, they declined. This isn’t unusual. Many interviews end up with the witness declaring that they don’t want to get involved.

Our private investigator however, had done the legwork, research, and eventually received the information she needed from the hot dog vendor. The information was given freely—without her asking a single question. Our private investigator collected all of this data and presented it to the lawyer for the case.

Case Closed – Despite the Outcome

The hot dog vendor revealed that the defendant in the case had caused the accident. Unfortunately, the lawyer who hired our private investigator couldn’t use this information because their client was the defendant.

In this case, it just goes to show that a private investigator is a completely neutral party. A good private investigator will not fabricate the information. The facts are the facts, no matter the outcome.

A Good Private Eye is Committed to Heavy Lifting

A lazy private investigator likely would have gone to one or two stores and then given up. Our investigator went back three times, spoke with many people, and then went back during the week. During her research on hot dog vendors, she spent time approaching other vendors and learned that each cart has a license in the name of the individual who runs the stand.

All of this investigative work takes time and effort. In the end, even though the lawyer couldn’t use the information, the client was completely satisfied because she provided the necessary information.

Going into a case strategically and allowing people to open up naturally is the mark of a skilled private investigator. In this case, a seemingly difficult case was solved quickly and efficiently—and without asking a single pointed question.

About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Whitney Joy Smith is a prominent figure in the field of private investigation and security, serving as the founder and CEO of The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., Smith Security Inc., and Training Centre Canada, as well as a sitting politician.

With a remarkable journey that began in the early 2000s, Whitney's professional background as a private investigator is underscored by her unwavering dedication to the role. Born in Canada and having spent her early years between Canada and the United States, Whitney possesses a unique perspective shaped by her experiences in both countries. This background equips her with an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of private investigative laws, regulations, and operational standards in North America.

Throughout her career, Whitney has garnered numerous industry awards and accolades. She takes great pride in working closely with her continually expanding agency, striving to elevate industry standards, maintain compliance, and effectively meet the diverse investigative needs of clients.

Whitney actively engages in various membership, committee, board and support roles, demonstrating her commitment to the industry and professional community. She is affiliated with all local chambers, associations and more.

Whitney's wealth of experience is not limited to her professional achievements; her thought-provoking articles have been featured in publications ranging from Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, and Mens Health to Business News Daily. She constantly seeks to redefine standards and push the boundaries of excellence within the private investigative and security fields.

To discover more about Whitney Joy Smith and the dedicated team at The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., visit our website to learn more.

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