What is the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act (FCA) allows private individuals to sue government contractors on behalf of the United States. Lawsuits under the FCA usually are referred to as “whistleblower” cases, as the plaintiff “blows the whistle” on instances of fraud or corruption within companies that contract with or work on behalf of the federal government.
The FCA makes it illegal for a vendor or contractor to file a false claim against the government for payment. These claims are usually filed against contractors or vendors in the health care, pharmaceutical, or construction fields, but can be filed against any person or company who is defrauding the government.
Are You a Relator?
A person who files an FCA claim is known as a relator. Unlike a normal civil lawsuit, the relator does not have to suffer any personal damage or harm in order to file a suit. Instead, the damage in these cases is done against the federal government, and by extension, against every U.S. citizen.
In order to be a relator and begin an FCA suit, the whistleblower must have intimate knowledge of the fraud or false claim at the heart of the action. Practically speaking, vague allegations of fraud are not enough to begin a case. Usually, a relator will either be an employee of a company which is committing fraud, or will be a spouse or relative of someone who is privy to intimate details of fraudulent activity.
How Does A Qui Tam or False Claims Act Lawsuit Work?
First, speak with an experienced FCA attorney like those at Riddle & Brantley, LLP. They can help you determine if you have a legitimate FCA case before you begin the time-consuming process of starting a claim.
Once you have a viable qui tam, or whistleblower lawsuit under the FCA, your attorney will prepare a disclosure statement and complaint. These documents will outline the facts of your case and the allegations you are making against the defendant. The complaint will be filed with the court, but kept under seal, so that the defendant (who could be your employer) is not aware of the investigation.
The Attorney General or an attorney with the Department of Justice will investigate your claims within 60 days. After the government has finished investigating, the government will decide whether or not it wants to intervene, or join, as a party in your case.
If the government joins your case, the lawsuit will continue until it is resolved by a jury verdict or settlement. If the government does not join your case, then you will have the option of pursuing your case on your own or dropping your claim. The federal government does not join every FCA case, and its failure to join your claim does not necessarily mean that you will lose your case.
Why Should You Pursue an FCA Case?
Fraud hurts all of us. The Government Accountability Office has estimated that 10% of all Medicare and Medicaid payments are the result of false billings or faked records. The U.S. Attorney General’s office has put that number even higher, near $90 billion dollars, or almost a fifth of what the programs pay out every year.
In addition to helping stop fraud, relators who file successful qui tam cases can receive anywhere from 15% to 30% of the amount the government recovers from the wrongdoer as a reward. Reporting fraud and false claims not only helps the general economy, but can significantly impact your own quality of life.
Qui Tam Attorneys
At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our experienced False Claims Act lawyers will guide you through the process of filing a claim. If you believe that your employer, or another government contractor is defrauding the government, call (800)525-7111 or use our case evaluation form to have your claim reviewed by one of our North Carolina attorneys. We can advise you about the viability of your False Claims Act case, and will help make sure your rights are protected after you file.