What do you need to know about paying the qui tam attorney fees? Find out here.
People who file a whistleblower lawsuit are often concerned about qui tam attorney fees. The common perception is that it will cost a lot of money out of your own pocket. This can make it seem like a qui tam lawsuit is a gamble, especially if you’re unsure of the case’s merits. However, the expenses in these cases usually come out of any recovery that you receive. This article explains how it works.
A whistleblower attorney usually performs an initial review of a case for free. Once the attorney decides to take the case, you can retain the attorney on a contingency basis. This arrangement means that you will pay the attorney only if the case is successful and you receive a reward from the government. An attorney who works on a contingency basis pays all expenses needed to represent you. These expenses include the costs of hiring expert witnesses, traveling, and completing documentation. They are also entitled to seek reimbursement of these expenses from the defendant if the case is successful.
The Whistleblower’s Reward
Your reward will be a percentage of what the government recovers in the event the suit is successful. This percentage can range from 15 to 30 percent of the total recovery, dependent on several factors. The most important of these is whether the government decides to pursue the case. Your percentage of the recovery will be less with government intervention.
Another factor that helps determine your reward is the value of the information you provide. Information with greater value will result in a higher reward. Your role in the case is also a factor the court will consider when assessing your percentage of the recovery.
The recovery in these cases can be up to three times the damages to the government plus the civil penalties. Each act of fraud can incur a separate penalty, which can be up to $11,000. Qui tam cases can include hundreds of separate acts, so the recovery amounts can be quite large.
Starting the Case
Initiating a qui tam case costs very little even if you don’t have an attorney yet. It does incur a filing fee and other minor administrative expenses. This means you can take a qui tam case some distance without spending any significant money up front, even without an attorney.
You need to inform the government about the facts of your case once you file it. This allows the government to begin investigating your claims. The government will keep your case secret during this phase to prevent the defendant from hiding or destroying evidence. You should not discuss the case with anyone other than your lawyer and the government officials investigating the case.
The government may decide to take over the case at this point. In this case, you shouldn’t incur many expenses since your attorney won’t be prosecuting the case. Government intervention also means you have a strong case, so you’re more likely to receive a reward.
No Government Intervention
You still have the option of pursuing your case even if the government declines to prosecute it. You should not have to pay anything up to this point, including attorney fees or other expenses. This option has a greater risk because there may be costs involved from this point. However, you will also get a more significant share of the recovery if you win.
You will need to have a detailed discussion with your attorney at this point to determine if you will proceed without the government. In particular, you need to know if the attorney fees are likely to exceed the reward you receive. It’s also important to know when you would receive the reward, as qui tam cases can take years to decide. Another factor to consider is that you may become unemployable in your current profession if you become known as a whistleblower.
Recovering Expenses and Qui Tam Attorney Fees
Most qui tam cases fall under the False Claims Act (FCA), although the federal government has other qui tam laws. The FCA provides that whistleblowers may be eligible to recover legal costs from the defendant in addition to the reward itself. These expenses can include attorney fees and other costs associated with trying the case.
A whistleblower has the standing to recover these fees, not the whistleblower’s attorney. Furthermore, the whistleblower generally receives these fees directly, rather than the attorney. Reimbursement requires the whistleblower to have an attorney-client relationship with an attorney. This rule applies even in cases where the whistleblower is an attorney.
Understanding the fees related to whistleblower cases can be confusing. Get all of the information you need about qui tam attorney fees by contacting Bothwell Law Group today at 770.643.1606.