Frequently Asked Questions About the False Claims Act and Qui Tam in Washington
As a Washington Qui Tam lawyer and False Claims Act attorney, I know that potential whistleblowers have many questions about the process for government fraud cases. The following are a number of the most commonly-asked questions about this type of litigation.
If you are aware of government fraud and are seeking a whistleblower lawyer, I would urge you to contact me for a free consultation before taking any action whatsoever. When you contact me, I will listen to your case, determine whether further investigation may be warranted, and answer any questions you may have (including those about potential employer retaliation and whistleblowing protections).
Importantly, because only the first person to report fraud will normally be entitled to recover compensation for whistleblowing, it will be important not to discuss the details of your fraud case with anyone other than an experienced False Claims Act Lawyer.
What is a qui tam lawsuit?
A qui tam lawsuit is a lawsuit brought forward by a private citizen under the False Claims Act concerning fraud against the United States government. This person brings a case on the government’s behalf, generally with the assistance of an experienced Seattle qui tam lawyer.
What is a “relator”?
A relator is the person who brings a qui tam action.
How long do I have to file my qui tam case?
Qui tam cases are subject to strict timeframes. An individual may not file a qui tam case more than ten years after the fraud took place. They must bring their case either three years after the government should have known or had knowledge of such violation, or six years after the date of the claimed violation. This can be true even if the fraud has been ongoing for up to ten years.
Delay can mean part or all of the fraud cannot be pursued. Also, the first person to file the lawsuit may recover a reward. Later filers may be out of luck. Acting quickly is important.
How much can I make in a qui tam case?
If fraud is proven in a False Claims Act / Qui tam Case, the relator stands to obtain between 15 and 30 percent of all monies recovered in a qui tam case. Given stiff penalties for government fraud and the serious nature of most qui tam cases, the recovery can be millions of dollars. Further, when the case is settled, there is typically an additional amount added for attorneys’ fees.
Do I Have to Pay for Litigation Expenses in a False Claims Act Case?
While the individual does pay for the initial phases of the lawsuit, legitimate and valid qui tam cases are usually taken over by the government. Most qui tam lawyers (including my firm) advance these costs on behalf of their clients and take the case on a contingency fee basis (no fee unless there is a recovery.)
What kinds of cases constitute qui tam fraud?
Any situation in which the government is defrauded by a contractor, individual, or even a local government can be a potential qui tam case. Many qui tam cases concern Medicare fraud or fraud by governmental contractors.
Basically, any activity (with the exception of falsifying tax returns) in which a company is accused of cheating the United States government out of monetary benefit constitutes a qui tam lawsuit. Such activity can include Medicare overbilling and other types of medical billing fraud, the acceptance of grants or other government money or benefits (such as that used for educational purposes, military contracts, or falsified employment contracts or work orders), and any other activity that essentially steals taxpayer dollars from U.S. citizens.
See my page on “Types of Qui Tam Fraud” for more examples.
Is my qui tam case worth the money and effort I’ll spend bringing it to trial?
Not necessarily. As an experienced qui tam attorney, I can advise you concerning whether your qui tam case appears to be valid and has a good chance of being of interest to the government.
What if I am retaliated against for “blowing the whistle” on fraud?
There are federal and state laws that protect whistleblowers. In addition, the False Claims Act stiffly penalizes those who retaliate against whistleblowers. Before filing a qui tam action, I can advise you as to what steps can and should be taken to protect your interests.
I think I have a valid qui tam case. What should my next step be?
Call me as soon as possible so that I can evaluate your case and help decide whether to pursue qui tam litigation. As a Seattle False Claims attorney with decades of experience, I am committed to helping individuals expose fraud against the government, and have extensive experience litigating qui tam cases. Contact my office today to schedule a free phone consultation.