Have you ever declined a substantial injury case because you felt the adverse party did not have sufficient coverage? Perhaps you’re a busy trial lawyer who has delegated to your paralegal the task of running a proprietary database report (Accurint or Lexis/Nexis). A day or so later, the paralegal provides you with an incomprehensible report with lots of information organized into confusing categories. After a quick perusal of the identified assets (perhaps a car, a homesteaded property), you determine that there are insufficient assets to pursue litigation. Due to the policy limits, you make a determination that the adverse has no assets and you turn down the case.
You may be surprised to learn what you gave away. Attorneys who partner with licensed investigators often discover tantalizing clues to more substantial assets than those disclosed on the $25 report. For instance, the defendant driver has an address history in New York State that appears under the name of a corporation or some other entity. The defendant has several of these entities holding properties for him in resort areas along the east coast. One of the valuable properties that is not his homestead has been quit-claimed to a female whose identity you did not know. Additional searches might disclose her as the defendant’s sister, with the property placed in her name to avoid collection of a judgment. Unless you have access to a private investigator’s research skills, you may never know any of these things.
Database reports are aggregated from a variety of sources, and the information in these reports is often redundant, out of date, or simply inaccurate. In fact, a closer look at the disclaimer warns the reader that none of the information has been verified by a personal review of the data.
Licensed investigators receive more detailed information that is provided to them because they are licensed by the various states in which they run their businesses. Law firms do not have access to the same information because the paralegals running the reports are not licensed. It takes practice and experience to analyze the information and discern leads to more accurate information. Skilled legal investigators have the necessary experience and awareness of different types of public records sources, depending on the region or the country involved.
For example, MERLIN© is a database that has tremendous resources along the western states. Here on the east coast, TLO© has overtaken IRB Search/Accurint as the preferred data provider for many licensed investigators. Hank Asher, the founder of ChoicePoint©, developed TLO in the past three years and is absorbing a tremendous amount of market share with his new company.
Before you throw away a case that could be quite lucrative because you are not sure about the information provided in a database report, consider investing in some research through a skilled legal investigator. Just because you cannot see any assets through the lenses of a cheap report doesn’t mean that they’re not there.
When you need all the information to make a decision on a case, call Complete Legal Investigations at 561-687-8381.