After researching various websites you have gotten to the point where you are ready to report fraud and want a free and confidential consultation. That begs the question: what do I want in a qui tam lawyer? Before the consultation regarding filing a qui tam case you should make sure you have the right lawyer. There are certain qualities to look for in a qui tam attorney.
Qui Tam Cases Are Different Than Other Civil Cases
Qui tam cases are different both substantively and procedurally than other civil cases. For example, the False Claims Act, and other similar statutes, allows for individuals to file a qui tam case on behalf of the government. In other words, the individual stands in the shoes of the government.
Typically, in order to bring a lawsuit a person must have “standing” or have suffered harm. When filing a qui tam case, the False Claims Act provides that an individual bringing the suit has standing. The individual has standing if he/she has knowledge of government fraud.
Similarly, under the CIFPA the whistleblower has standing to sue when private insurance companies are defrauded. Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act the whistleblower has standing to sue when car manufacturers are committing fraud.
Qui Tam Lawyer Experience with Procedures
The whistleblower statutes have procedural requirements that are different than other civil statutes. Filing requirements also differ between courts and jurisdictions. Qui tam attorneys should be experienced with how to navigate these requiremetns.
First and foremost, all complaints must be filed under seal. After the complaint is filed, the government must be served with all relevant materials. The materials are called “disclosure materials.” These disclosure materials must be served in a very specific way proscribed by statute. IT is applicable to cases filed under the federal False Claims Act. This is also true for States that have enacted similar State False Claims Acts.
This is different when a qui tam attorney is filing a tip under the SEC Whistleblower Program. When filing a tip, the SEC requires the qui tam lawyer to complete a Form TCR. If the tip under the SEC Whistleblower Statute results in a recovery the individual must file to claim an award.
Qui Tam Lawyer Experience With the Law
Because of the unique nature of the False Claims Acts it is important to find a lawyer that has experience filing and pursuing cases under these statutes.
For example, there are many pros to filing cases: whistleblower financial reward. There are also cons to filing cases that need to be appropriately considered. Only a qui tam lawyer experienced with lawsuits knows the consequences. You need a whistleblower lawyer who can competently walk you through this analysis. These cons should be discussed with a experienced lawyer so that the whistleblower can make the best decision for his/her and his/her family.
In addition to consequences of filing there are other issues. There are also issues related to bankruptcy, divorce, separation agreements. These issues can cause a whistleblower to be barred from receiving a reward.
There are potential legal counterattacks a qui tam lawyer must be ready to deal with. For example, the defendant can file a counterclaim. The counterclaim might allege that whistleblower stole documents or breached a confidentiality agreement. These counterclaims can be avoided or appropriately responded to if the lawyer has qui tam experience.
Contingent Fee Arrangement
Experienced qui tam lawyers typically work on a contingent fee basis. This means the qui tam attorney will provide for out-of-pocket costs associated with filing the case. These costs include filing fees, travel, copies, research, depositions, experts, etc. The whistleblower will not pay anything. In addition to out-of-pocket costs, the qui tam lawyer will provide his/her time for free.
The qui tam attorney will only recover money in instances the whistleblower recovers money. The opposite is also true. If the qui tam case fails, the whistleblower will not have to pay the attorney. This includes out of pocket costs and attorney time.
Qui Tam Lawyer Relationships with Government
An often overlooked quality when seeking a qui tam lawyer, is the lawyer’s relationship with the government. After all, when a whistleblower files a qui tam case, he/she files on behalf of the government. After the case is filed, the government investigates the case. It is important for the qui tam lawyer to have a trust relationship and/or experience with government attorneys. This relationship will encourage cooperation and flow of information between the whistleblower and government. And this eventually will be more likely to lead to a successful qui tam case.
The whistleblower lawyer will also be able to serve as a “back office” for the government. If the government is low on resources, the whistleblower attorney can conduct research or review documents. This kind of assistance can turn the qui tam case into a success.
Simply, Do you Get Along?
Finally, it is important to simply get-along, maybe even like your qui tam attorney. You will be spending some time together, so it is important to trust and be able to communicate openly with the attorney you hire.
If all of these factors are not present, look for different attorney or ask your attorney to refer you to another attorney.
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