Whistleblower lawsuits are based on federal or state statutes. The most common statute is The False Claims Act, which was enacted under the Lincoln administration in 1863. For this reason it is often referred to as “Lincoln’s Law.” The law has been amended significantly since then, and in recent times it has allowed for lawsuits by “whistleblowers”—private citizens with non-public knowledge—to file a federal action against federal contractors, claiming fraud against the government of which they have knowledge. The whistleblower can, following certain legal requirements, bring the suit on behalf of the government, and it is known as a “qui tam” action. The phrase “qui tam” is a Latin abbreviation which essentially means, [he] who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.”
The False Claims Act allows the whistleblower in a qui tam case to recover a portion of the damages recovered due to another person or company’s knowingly false claim submitted to the government, which the government paid or reimbursed. The amount to which a whistleblower may be entitled varies, but usually ranges around 15-30% of the damages recovered.
Some of the most common types of whistleblower lawsuits include false invoices billed to government agencies, or false billings by contractors such as in the health care, financial, and other industries. A number of states also have their own false claims act statutes, which are usually the same as the federal statute, but they apply when a state, rather than the federal government, experiences the fraudulent or false billings or overpayments.
Purpose of Whistleblower Lawsuits
False claims act statutes encourage individuals with information about knowingly fraudulent or wasteful spending of government funds to come forward.This financial incentive in turn enables the federal and/or state governments to recoup a significant portion of the funds expended or lost through the fraud. The False Claims Act has proven to be an important method for combating government fraud and waste, by naming government contractors or other entities making use of government funds inappropriately.
Tips for Employees or Others Considering a Qui Tam Lawsuit
If, as an employee, you have knowledge of what could be fraudulent activity involving billing, or avoiding payments, to a state or federal government, it is your right to seek legal counsel who can help investigate and determine if there is a false claims act or qui tam case. And There are legal protections in place in order to help protect whistleblowers from retaliation in these kinds of cases.
If you notice any questionably fraudulent or illegal activity against the government in your place of work or elsewhere, it’s not an easy decision to move forward with a lawsuit. You may be feeling nervous or scared about repercussions of filing a claim.You need knowledgeable attorneys to help you navigate the complex situation of filing a claim (including under seal as the laws require), understanding your rights after filing one, and who can then prosecute the suit if the government decides not to do so. And first and foremost, you need to learn about your legal rights in this situation.
Does a Whistleblower Need an Attorney?
Although you could technically proceed with a qui tam lawsuit on your own, this is not recommended. Moving forward with a lawsuit like this requires that numerous legal steps be met, including in the evidence gathering, filing of the claim under seal, and correct service or notice of the same to the U.S. government. Given that hundreds of these cases are filed with the U.S. Justice Department on an annual basis, the department has limited resources in terms of attorneys dedicated to working on them. Only those claims and cases with the most compelling evidence are accepted or joined in by the government.For instance, approximately 25 percent of qui tam cases are joined in by the Justice Department, and having the government involved leads to more than 85 percent of those cases either being won or settled.
Moreover, in the event the government does not join in or accept the prosecution of the case, your qui tam attorney will become the one who may be able to do so for you, on behalf of the government.So, having a qui tam attorney help you prepare your lawsuit is the best way to increase the chances that your claim or case will succeed.This highlights the importance of having an attorney help you craft your case.
What You Should Know About Hiring a Qui Tam Attorney
More often than not, a qui tam attorney will evaluate your case first. If he or she decides to accept it, this will be on a contingency fee basis–meaning that the attorney is only paid a percentage of your recovery if you succeed.Legal experience and knowledge of how to prepare a compelling case are essential functions that a qui tam attorney provides, but those who accept a case on a contingency fee basis only get paid if you win or settle.
If you have a viable qui tam claim, Clore Law Group will begin working to secure the maximum compensation possible and to help put a stop to fraudulent or illegal activity against the government.You’ll pay nothing up front, because our fees are earned if and when we win your case; your case evaluation is free too. The sooner you contact an experienced qui tam lawyer the better.