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Whistleblower Claims FAQ's
What is the False Claims Act (Qui tam)?
The False Claims Act is 31 U.S.C. Sections 3729 through 3733. Qui tam lawsuits, under the False Claims Act, allow persons and entities with evidence of fraud against federal programs or contracts to sue the wrongdoer on behalf of the United States Government. In Qui tam actions, the government has the right to intervene and join the action. Qui tam is a Latin expression meaning, “he who brings an action for the King as well as himself.” The person filing the suit is legally referred to as the “relator” in a qui tam lawsuit. False Claims Act suits are often related to Medicare, Medicaid or other health care fraud, defense department fraud and contracting fraud.
What is the liability for violating the False Claims Act?
Violators of the False Claims Act are liable for three times the dollar amount that the Government is defrauded (i.e., treble damages) and civil penalties of $5,000 to $10,000 for each false claim.
What actions are considered violations under the False Claims Act?
Actions which are considered violations of the False Claims Act include
- knowingly presenting (or caused to be presented) to the federal government a false or fraudulent claim for payment;
- knowingly using (or causing to be used) a false record or statement to get a claim paid by the federal government;
- conspiring with others to get a false or fraudulent claim paid by the federal government; and
- knowingly using (or causing to be used) a false record or statement to conceal, avoid, or decrease an obligation to pay money or transmit property to the federal government. Workers' Compensation law provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job or who suffer an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment.
Who can file a Qui tam action?
Any person or entities with evidence of fraud against federal programs or contracts may file a Qui tam lawsuit.
What are the civil penalties under the False Claims Act?
Violators of the False Claims Act are liable for three times the dollar amount that the government is defrauded. A Qui tam plaintiff (relator or whistleblower) can receive between 15 and 30 percent of the total recovery from the defendant, whether through a favorable judgment or settlement. To be eligible to recover money under the Act, you must first file a Qui tam lawsuit. Merely informing the government about the violation is not enough. You only receive an award if, and after, the government recovers money from the defendant as a result of your suit.
Can there be more than one private plaintiff in a particular Qui tam lawsuit?
Yes. More than one person or entity can join together and file a Qui Tam lawsuit.
Is there a deadline for filing a Qui tam action?
Under the False Claims Act, an action must be filed within the later of the following two time periods:
- Six years from the date of the violation of the Act; or
- Three years after the Government knows or should have known about the violation, but in no event longer than 10 years after the violation of the Act.
How long does a Qui tam action take?
The time from the filing of a Qui tam action until its resolution varies greatly from case to case. One should, however, be prepared for a Qui tam action to take years, sometimes as many as five or more.
Do I have to report the fraud that I know about to the Government or my employer before filing a Qui tam action?
In general, the False Claims Act does not require you to report the fraud before filing a Qui tam action. However, there are circumstances in which you must, or would be wise to, inform the Government before filing. You may wish to speak with an attorney about this issue. Contact the office of Younce & Vtipil for information on your legal rights.
Can I keep my identity a secret if I file a Qui tam action?
If you file a Qui tam action, the Government will know your identity, and your name will likely be disclosed to the defendant at some point. During the initial seal period, (under the law) the defendant is not supposed to learn that you have filed the lawsuit; however, (in practice) defendants sometimes figure it out. After the seal period ends, when the Government announces its decision regarding intervention and the complaint is served on the defendant, your identity will be revealed. There are circumstances in which you may be able to file a Qui tam action and then voluntarily dismiss it during the seal period without having your identity revealed.
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