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Contract Law

A chapter on the law of contracts is included in this reference guide for a purpose different to the rest of the chapters. It is very seldom that even a circumstance investigator needs any but the barest basics of contract law, and those employed in other civilian law enforcement fields need no knowledge of it at all to perform their functions. The real reason is that workers in some fields are engaged as sub-contractors. Hence there are many of us who are functionally powerless against the stronger parties - major investigation firms, process serving firms, law firms and insurance companies - who use our services. A knowledge of one's rights is sometimes quite helpful. Then also, this information is helpful to smaller firms dealing directly with larger end clients, whether it's the aforementioned regulars, or individuals in the retail market who have unreasonable expectations and a lack of patience.

Contracts involve promises on both sides where something of value is transferred between both parties subject to a clear and legitimate agreement. To prevent parties changing their minds when things turn against them in the course of business, courts rely on evidence of what they mutually intended to be bound by law to perform for each other. Contracts involve transferring things of value such as personal rights, property rights and promises of future obligations.


Contracts lie at the heart of all commerce, though rarely are the subject of an investigation involving outside parties; however many times investigators are called upon to investigate assets, interests and liabilities which came into being in at least one transaction – such as real estate, or an insurance contract. Therefore it is of interest for an investigator to understand the legal backdrop preceding their inquiries.

Contract law is quite probably the largest major heading in the case law system. It is a great deal larger than tort law and far larger than criminal law. What follows hereunder is only a thin cross-section of the total subject matter, but it is enough for the purposes of an investigator gathering circumstantial evidence. Furthermore, in spite of the importance of contract law to commerce of all kinds, the parties themselves will ordinarily hold most of the necessary evidence in a contract-related dispute. A lot of this is in the form of written contracts, logs, accounts, receipts, invoices, emails and order forms which are reflexively kept on hand by businesses. When these are not kept on hand much of the information is not of the kind a person will remember reliably. The reader may nevertheless find this information useful when they are acting on their own behalf.


What Makes a Contract Valid?

Contracts need certain attributes to be legally valid and enforceable…

1) Agreement as to terms on both sides

2) Facts identifiable as offer and acceptance.

3) An intention on both sides to be legally bound.

4) Certainty of terms.


A contract need NOT be in writing, or signed. You only need proof of the above 4 factors. A contract can be made verbally or implied by the ongoing relationship of the parties.


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