Civil Investigations: An Overview for Investigators


Civil Investigations: An Overview

Civil investigations attempt to uncover, collect and document the required information for civil trials. Civil trials involve cases about two citizens and their respective issues. The findings of such investigations help the court trials with expert reports that can help the jury come to a decision regarding the case.

Different categories of civil investigations

Civil investigation can take any form, but the most common ones generally fall into the following categories:

  • Background check: This is one of the most common types of investigation and helps uncover the truth about people involved in your personal or business life.
  • Home surveillance: This is also relatively common and often pertains to finding information on personnel you hire at home, such as nannies, security personnel, medical caregivers, etc.
  • Marital matters: This is about investigations of divorces, domestic violence, infidelity, pre-marital checks, etc.
  • Personal injury cases involve discovering everything related to how an injury might have occurred, who was involved, etc.
  • Missing persons: Such investigations involve investigating the last whereabouts of the individual, checking on all the people related to the missing person, etc.
  • Fraud cases: This is for finding the truth about assets, company funds, insurance fraud, workers’ compensation matters, etc.
  • Child custody cases: This involves finding things that can impact such cases as mistreatment of a child, abuse cases, parental neglect, etc.

The process of a civil investigation

The first step in any civil investigation is the meeting between the investigator and the lawyer or the person who wants to conduct the investigation. The civil investigator is given all relevant information about the case and any additional information that is needed for the case. At this stage, the investigator and the client might discuss the investigator’s fee and the budget for the case.

Civil investigators can then employ various legal methods to obtain the necessary information for their clients. These methods can include background checks, medical investigations, checking forensic reports, interviews with people who might help the case, such as witnesses, and surveillance of other people and places.

Once the investigators find anything useful, they share the finding with the clients and investigate more depending on the needs of the case. They may also document the findings to present to the clients. There are times when civil investigators are also asked to stand as witnesses or experts to help civil trials. This is because they work closely with information and matters related to the case.

Here are some of the common steps involved in a civil investigation:

  1. Preliminary inquiry: The investigator will first gather information about the case, such as the facts of the incident, the names of the parties involved, and the potential witnesses.
  2. Interviews: The investigator will then interview witnesses to gather their accounts of the incident.
  3. Document review: The investigator will review relevant documents, such as medical records, police reports, and employment records.
  4. Surveillance: The investigator may conduct surveillance of the parties involved in the case to gather additional evidence.
  5. Analysis: The investigator will analyze the evidence gathered during the investigation to determine what happened and who is responsible.
  6. Report writing: The investigator will write a report summarizing the investigation’s findings.

The importance of civil investigations

Court trials depend on solid evidence presented by lawyers of both parties involved. The right investigator can help you win the case by finding out relevant proof and witnesses needed to win the case. In court, the proof is everything. The more solid your proof, the better your chances of winning the case. Professional investigators employ legal tools for their job and can provide you with information that might win you the case. Visit our Private Investigator Directory to hire a professional in your area.

Child Abuse?

Child abuse is generally considered to be children’s physical or psychological-emotional mistreatment. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define child abuse as: “any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in the harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.”

There are other variations of the definition as well. According to the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, child abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

Most child abuse and mistreatment occur in a child’s home. Some child abuse occurs in organizations such as schools, churches, or other organizations or communities the child attends or interacts with.

Types of Child Abuse

There are four major categories of child abuse:

  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Child sexual abuse

Different jurisdictions have defined what constitutes child abuse and child mistreatment to remove a child from a family and/or prosecute a criminal charge.

Child Neglect

Child neglect is “the failure of a person responsible for a child’s care and upbringing to safeguard the child’s emotional and physical health and general well-being.” The harm to a child may or may not be the intended consequence.

The following are types of child neglect:

  • Failure to provide care
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Medical/dental neglect
  • Educational deficiencies
  • Failure to adequately supervise
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Exposure to violent or harmful environments
  • Exposure to unsafe living conditions

Also, see Elder Abuse investigations.

For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.


  1. Civil Investigations! As someone who has been employed in the private sector all my life, it still amazes me how people from criminal investigation backgrounds feel they can walk into civil investigation, no training and just carry on the same. In the UK criminal and civil law are completely different.


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