Qui Tam Lawsuits
Are you under the impression that you may have grounds to initiate a qui tam lawsuit? As a potential whistleblower you might have already gathered evidence against an individual or an entire organization that you believe has been defrauding the federal government. This could enable you to participate as a relator in a qui tam lawsuit.
A relator is the term used to describe a party who has this knowledge and uses this evidence to pursue a case on the government’s behalf. The federal government might have to intervene in such a case or the whistleblower can pursue it on their own. In either case it is important for the relator to be aware of what’s involved in a qui tam lawsuit. Whistleblowers can also include federal employees who report fraud.
What Occurs Within a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
An employee who has evidence that his or her employer is defrauding the government is eligible to sue the employer. Whistleblowers are rewarded under the False Claims Act if their case does indeed lead to recovery of compensation for the government in addition to job protection. Once a qui tam lawsuit is filed, it is under seal for 60 days. This means that during this phase of the case it is not revealed to the person who has been accused of fraud and others except the government.
The Justice Department uses the receipt of this evidence at that point to complete their own evaluation. Investigations could last for months or years, which is why it is important for a whistleblower to be aware of expectations. The court may also extend the time period that the case is under seal multiple times so that the government has ample time to investigate and decide whether or not to intervene.
After the Justice Department has concluded their investigation, the government will issue a formal decision about whether or not it will intervene in the case. Only a small percentage of qui tam cases involve government intervention but cases that do involve government intervention are much more likely to be successful overall. The vast majority of qui tam cases end up settling.
If it is determined that a settlement could be negotiated with the organization in question, the government might request the court lift the seal to directly discuss the allegations.
Any qui tam whistleblower can still choose to proceed with the case even if the government completes an investigation and makes the determination not to proceed.
Why Do People Initiate Qui Tam Lawsuits?
Defendants that are found liable under the False Claims Act could be held accountable for paying up to three times more than what the government lost for each false claim submitted in addition to penalties as high as $10,000 for each false claim. The whistleblower is then entitled to up to 25% of that overall recovery if the Justice Department gets involved in the case.
Multiple factors influence the total amount of the award, including how much the whistleblower was involved to ensure the success of the suit and how much evidence was presented to the Justice Department. For cases in which the government opts not to intervene, the reward is up to 30% for recovered false claims as well as penalties.
Qui Tam Lawsuit Job Protection
Employees who initiate whistleblower claims are protected against retaliation by their employer. Any employee who is demoted, discharged, discriminated against, or harassed due to furthering a qui tam action is entitled to receive double back pay, reinstatement, and compensation for special damages such as attorney’s fees and litigation costs.
It is important to speak with an experienced qui tam lawsuit attorney to discuss bringing forward a case and some of the potential challenges that you might experience as a whistleblower. Having knowledgeable legal representation can make an impact on the outcome of your case and your ability to take proper action if your employer does retaliate against you.
A qui tam lawsuit is a separate legal action from the retaliation claim that an employee could pursue if the company discriminates due to the whistleblower’s protected activity. Whistleblowers making a good faith attempt to alert the government to fraud should be aware of the risks and potential challenges ahead and should consult with a practiced whistleblower lawyer.
Consulting a Whistleblower Attorney
After meeting with an experienced whistleblower attorney the case should be reviewed along with documentation and facts used to support your claims of fraud. This is why it is extremely important to identify a whistleblower attorney who is familiar with these kinds of cases since the decision to proceed in such a case will be based on the knowledge of someone who is familiar with what usually occurs once the case reaches the Justice Department.
Filing the Complaint
After enough information has been gathered and presented to your attorney, your lawyer will draft the necessary documents to file the complaint in US District Court. This document is also very helpful for persuading the government to intervene in your case which can be a significant benefit due to the government’s level of success with cases in which they intervene.
The first to file policy is one of the most important aspects of a whistleblower lawsuit to be aware of. Potential qui tam lawsuit whistleblowers must understand that if a whistleblower action is currently pending investigation, that no other related action based on those same claims can be brought forward. Speaking with your attorney prior to beginning any whistleblower action can begin the research process to determine if anyone else
The purpose of this is to encourage those who have evidence of fraud to bring these issues to light as soon as possible and to eliminate duplicate actions that could dilute the Justice Department’s resources.
Filing a qui tam lawsuit can initially seem confusing but can be aided with the assistance of an experienced whistleblower lawyer. A whistleblower lawyer should have extensive experience in helping other whistleblower claimants with similar allegations. Sitting down with a whistleblower lawyer is often the employee’s first step in initiating a legal claim.