“Qui tam,” or whistleblower actions, are confusing to many. You might be confused by the phrase itself, which is an abbreviated version of a Latin phrase meaning, “he who sues for the king as well as for himself.” Or you might not know what it means in a legal sense, or you may simply be confused by all the requirements. We’d like to take you through a few of the main points, so that you can better understand what’s going on. However, we cannot recommend strongly enough that you contact a knowledgeable attorney before instigating a qui tam lawsuit. There are many pitfalls that could end your lawsuit before it begins, and expose you to retaliation as well.
A qui tam lawsuit is a lawsuit filed against a person or group who is committing fraud against the government. This kind of fraud comes in many forms, most commonly relating to health care, Medicare, defense contracts or government construction. Under the False Claims Act, a private person with personal knowledge about such fraud may file a lawsuit against the person or group committing fraud. The person is essentially filing a suit on behalf of the government. The benefit of this is that, in addition to doing the right thing, putting a stop to the fraud and saving substantial amounts of taxpayers’ money, the person filing the suit receives up to thirty percent of the amount the government recovers as a result of the lawsuit. In some cases, this can amount to a huge amount of money to you, the whistleblower.
If you’re not sure whether you have a good qui tam case, consider some examples of clear-cut fraud:
- A defense contractor agrees on certain materials in a contract with the government, but then uses inferior materials in the actual work, to save money;
- A doctor runs medical tests or conducts medical procedures that are not necessary in order to be paid more;
- A construction contractor falsifies time cards so as to pretend that he was paying his employees more than he was;
- A medicare practitioner bills for products or services that were never provided or used.
There are many, many varieties of qui tam lawsuits; these are only a few. But if you see any fraud of this kind, you should contact an attorney immediately. Only the first person to bring suit gets compensated a portion of the recovery.
There are risks involved in a qui tam suit. The person filing the suit is legally shielded from retaliation by the person or group against which he or she is filing suit, but it can be difficult to ensure that the whistleblower is not threatened or harassed. As you might expect, the kind of person who is willing to commit fraud against the government might not be overly concerned with following the letter of the law as relates to behavior toward a whistleblower.
The government, too, is very particular about the way a qui tam lawsuit is conducted, and if the whistleblower does not conform to their very specific requirements, the case could be thrown out. For instance, because they need to collect the appropriate evidence to prove the fraud, a qui tam suit must remain secret for a certain amount of time. This is why it is imperative to hire a good lawyer to help you handle such a lawsuit. A good attorney knows the details of the law and won’t make a mistake that could cause the case to be over before it begins. He will also know how to keep you safe from reprisals. And of course, you still have to win the case by proving the fraud, and quality legal representation is a necessity for that as well.
Not only is a successful qui tam suit financially rewarding for a whistleblower, but it is important for those committing fraud to realize that they can be turned in by almost anyone. It’s regrettable that for these people, the fear of being caught may be the only deterrent to committing fraud, but since that is the case, it is the job of every person to report fraud when they find it. Fraud is wrong; it costs everyone money and creates unsafe situations, whether that means that employees who are being forced into illegal actions fear for their safety, or that government projects have been built to unsafe standards or with unsafe materials. If you or a loved one witness or are being forced to participate in fraud against the government, please call us today. We are ready and willing to investigate your case, and to use our decades of experience and many expert associates to help you, protect your rights, and stop the fraud. With a qui tam lawsuit you can do well for yourself financially by doing good for society!