I take for granted or don’t realize some of the things I have learned over the years. The majority of my investigative experience comes in the form of insurance investigations. Though I have done many different types of investigations over the years, the big cash cow for me and investigation companies, in general, tend to be the surveillance investigations.
I have worked for just about every big client out there (or it at least feels that way). I know what has worked for the big investigation companies and for the small companies.
So how does a new investigation company break into the insurance investigation world? The short answer is to be educated. Not book smart (though that will help). You need to
- Know the job
- Know the private investigator lingo
- Know where to find the clients
- Be good at what you do
- Promise something no one dares to promise
- Provide an awesome product
Know the Job
Surveillance isn’t just surveillance. That is to say, you don’t get to set up a surveillance position at a house and sit there until your 8 hours are up for the day. There are many small things about surveillance in the insurance industry that are different from a domestic surveillance.
What is the generally accepted start time for an insurance investigation? Can you pretext anyone you want during the course of an insurance investigation? What are time shots? Why do we take time shots? What are the medical acronyms? What are signs a claim is fraudulent? What is acceptable and what is not? These are just a few things that any insurance investigator needs to know when conducting surveillance.
It’s hard to fake it with a potential insurance company or Third Party Administrator (TPA) if you have no idea what a company wants or the product they will be expecting.
Know the Lingo
The client emails you something like this, “The claimant was involved in an MVA and will be attending IME tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., however, the location is unknown. Please conduct 2 days surveillance. One day is to be scheduled the day before the IME and the day of the IME.”
What is an MVA? What is an IME? These are questions you don’t want to ask your client. I won’t pretend to know all the lingo an insurance adjuster might know but you will need to know the most commonly used ones. MVA stands for motor vehicle accident and IME stands for independent medical examination (not the claimant’s doctors and not the insurance companies doctors). This is just something for you to think about.
Where to Find the Clients
Clients are everywhere. Getting them to let you work their cases is another story. But I digress. There are self-insured companies that have third-party administrators handle their claims. There are cities that are self-insured that manage their own insurance claims. There are of course insurance companies that give out plenty of work.
Once you identify what companies, insurance companies and TPA’s you want to talk with, you need to get on the phone and find out who is the one that actually assigns the work. Trust me they aren’t easy to get a hold of and sometimes when you finally get to the person who assigns the work they tell you that either they like who is doing the work for them or they tell you how they rarely assign investigations to outside companies. You will be turned down but the only way you will get your foot in the door with any company is by not giving up.
I had a friend who went on his own and started his own business. He hustled on the phone everyday calling and tracking down potential clients. After a few weeks, he got one call back from a school district. The person in charge gave him his first assignment which was a recorded statement. He knocked that assignment out of the park and they continued to give him work. With that one client, he grossed nearly 50k in his first year. One client fed his family, paid his mortgage and kept him going in his new business. This was an inspiring tidbit if you ask me. He went on to find more clients over the years but I will never forget him telling me about this one client.
Associations and Conferences is a Great Way to Get Insurance Clients For a Private Investigator Business
Other possible venues to find clients it to join adjuster associations, self-insured associations and attend insurance conferences. Many investigative companies set up booths at the insurance company or claims adjuster conferences with the hopes of making connections and finding new clients. I have personally not attended these conferences but I know many companies that do attend them.
I can recall a company I worked for in the Washington area attended a self-insured conference one or two times a year in Washington. The company I worked for would be a sponsor which meant they purchased some additional space on the conference brochure. They were the only investigative company in Washington that attended the conference and it was no wonder why they were able to make contacts, build relationships and gain new clients.
Many self-insured cities handle their own claims. Find out if there are any cities in your area and get on their vendor list for investigations.
Promise Something No One Dares to Promise
I am not going to pretend that I go around promising things that no one dares to promise. But what I can say is that the successful investigation businesses in the insurance field started by doing just that. When I read the E-Myth Revisited on Audible, the author reminded me of promising something that no one else will promise. For some companies, it might be something like asking for only the hardest surveillance cases that no other company can crack and then crack them.
It might be something like a promotion of three surveillance days for the price of two. Or like many companies, it could be promising that the surveillance will be assigned, conducted and completed with the final product in hand within two weeks (and this is no easy feat unless you have no other work).
I remember the founder of the first company (Omega Insurance Services) I worked for built his company by taking the worst surveillance cases and getting video when no one could. He would take surveillance cases where investigators from other companies had been burned or just didn’t have the skill to put them in a position to obtain video. The founder built a reputation for getting the hard to get video in the insurance investigation community and then built upon that reputation.
Be Good at What You Do and Provide an Awesome Product
If you conduct a crappy surveillance then your potential client is not going to hire you. If you provide crappy video then you investigation might not stand up in court. If your report is unprofessional and doesn’t provide standard statements or isn’t detailed enough, your potential client will not give you another chance.
Practice the craft of insurance investigations or at least the surveillance sides before attempting to act like you know what you doing. If you can do some work part-time for an existing company to get your feet wet it might be wise to do so.
If you are already in business for yourself I would try to go the vendor route and be the contract investigator for another company. Typically you will see example reports, photos, example report lingo and more importantly you will see the protocols in place that govern how they run their surveillance.
Make your product look clean and professional. Make sure the reports are easy to read and free of grammatical errors.
Final Thoughts on Finding and Getting Hired for Insurance Investigations
Know the Job – If you don’t know the job you can’t sell your services.
Know the Lingo – You must know the terminology when speaking to insurance companies.
Know where to find the clients – Belong to associations, go to conferences, hit the phones.
Be good at what you do – Provide a quality product.
Promise something no one dares to promise – Promise a quick turn-around time or take on a difficult case and promise results.
Hope this helps you grow your business.