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Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam LawsuitWhen an individual decides to file a lawsuit, they can choose whether they want to have an attorney represent them in the case. But, do I need an attorney to file a Qui Tam lawsuit? The answer is yes. You don’t have the choice to represent yourself with qui tam lawsuits. If you intend to file a qui tam lawsuit, you must do so with an attorney.

Filing a Lawsuit Pro Se

When an individual decides to start a lawsuit, they normally get to decide if they will hire an attorney or not. Most people will not take this route; they prefer the confidence that comes from having a seasoned attorney on their side. When a plaintiff does try a case without the help of an attorney, they are acting “pro se.”

There are several reasons why an individual may make this decision. One of the biggest reasons is to save money. In complex cases, such as qui tam actions brought under the False Claims Act, a client may feel what the attorney earns is more than they deserve. Given that, they choose to go it alone, without legal counsel.

Trying a case without the help of an attorney isn’t the smartest thing to do, but it’s theoretically possible and allowable – most of the time. One exception to this rule exists with qui tam lawsuits.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit? Yes, Only an Attorney May File a Qui Tam Lawsuit

A whistleblower who wishes to file a qui tam lawsuit must have an attorney represent them. This is because the qui tam lawsuit isn’t really the whistleblower’s case. It belongs to the US government. Therefore, it’s the government that should make the decision as to whether an attorney will bring a qui tam action.

Just like you’re able to choose if you want to hire an attorney or go pro se with your case, the US government has that choice as well. The only difference is that the US government realizes it’s not wise to try a qui tam lawsuit without an attorney’s help.

Why Should You Use an Attorney to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Besides the fact that the law requires it, using an attorney to file a quit tam lawsuit – or any other lawsuit, for that matter – is simply a good idea. Many people who try a case pro se do so because they think they know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, they usually don’t. Let’s look at an example to illustrate.

Let’s say you want to sue your insurance company for refusing to pay a homeowner’s claim covered under your insurance policy. You’re confident you are correct, and the insurance company is wrong. You decide to file a lawsuit for breach of contract. Do you know how to do that? Maybe the person at the front desk at the clerk of courts is really helpful and tells you how to do it. Great! You’re all done with filing the complaint, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Did you file the complaint in the right court? “Of course,” you say, because you filed it in the county where your house is. But what if you could choose between two county courts? The county you live in is very conservative, or what most attorneys would consider “pro-defense.” But a neighboring county is what many attorneys would consider very “pro-plaintiff.” Do you still think you picked the right county courthouse to file your lawsuit? Just figuring out where to file your complaint is complex enough, even in an example that often trips up some attorneys.

And we haven’t even gotten to your complaint yet. Did you prepare it properly? Is your state a fact pleading or notice pleading jurisdiction? How and where do you intend to serve the complaint?

It’s easy to see how something that seems so simple is actually rather complex. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to serve a complaint on an insurance company in a simple lawsuit, how will you figure out how to serve the defendant in your qui tam action? If you don’t know, that’s good — that was a trick question! You actually don’t serve the complaint on the defendant in a qui tam action after it’s filed with the court. You could get into serious legal trouble if you served a qui tam complaint on the defendant while the case was still under seal (kept secret).

Bottom Line? Get an Attorney

If you don’t think you need an attorney to file a qui tam lawsuit, you’re wrong. Fair or not, that’s the law. So if you’re thinking about hiring a qui tam attorney, call 770.643.1606 to speak with Bothwell Law Group.

What Is the Qui Tam Lawsuit Process and How Long Does It Typically Take?

qui tam lawsuit process

qui tam lawsuit processThe qui tam lawsuit process is very involved and can take a long time to complete. However, it serves as an effective method of finding fraudulent activities and provides a primary way for the government to learn of fraud and prosecute the fraudsters to the full extent of the law.

What Is the Qui Tam Lawsuit Process?

The qui tam lawsuit process is the legal process by which a whistleblower can sue a defendant (usually a government contractor that receives government funding) and allege the defendant is defrauding the government. Normally, it would be the government that would bring this type of lawsuit, but because most fraud against the government is unknown, the whistleblower (called a “relator”) will bring the lawsuit on behalf of the government.

In return for taking on the lawsuit, the government will allow the whistleblower to have a percentage of the money recovered in a successful qui tam lawsuit. This percentage is typically between 15% and 30%.

The qui tam lawsuit process begins with getting an attorney, preferably one experienced in qui tam lawsuits. Qui tam lawsuits are complex and require unusual legal procedures, so finding a qui tam lawyer is important. When looking for a qui tam attorney, whistleblowers need to be very careful to find one qualified in handling qui tam cases, given what’s at stake.

After hiring the right attorney, the first step in the qui tam process is filing a complaint, just like a typical lawsuit. But unlike most lawsuits, qui tam lawsuits require filing in federal district court, not state court. Also, the complaint must be “under seal,” which means it remains secret. This means the defendant doesn’t know about the lawsuit, nor does the general public know a lawsuit is pending against the defendant. With normal lawsuits, the filing of a complaint is public, and the defendant knows about the lawsuit almost immediately.

In addition to filing a complaint, the whistleblower will also need to submit a disclosure statement. This statement sets out all the evidence the whistleblower has that supports the allegations that the defendant has defrauded the government. This disclosure statement is important because it provides a starting point for the government’s investigation into the alleged fraud.

Once the complaint is in the court system and the disclosure statement provided, the government will investigate the fraud allegations. This usually takes a few months to a few years. While this investigation is taking place, the lawsuit will not move forward.

After the government finishes its investigation, it will decide whether to intervene, or join the lawsuit. The decision to intervene is critical to the success of the qui tam lawsuit. Most qui tam lawsuits where the government doesn’t intervene aren’t successful, and it’s easy to see why. Having the full resources of the United States government means a much stronger legal action for a much longer amount of time.

Additionally, when the defendant sees that the government decided not to join the whistleblower in a lawsuit, it sends a strong signal that the whistleblower doesn’t have a solid case. This means it’s more likely the defendant will fight the qui tam lawsuit and less likely it will want to settle.

Once the government decides to intervene (or not), the court lifts the seal on the qui tam lawsuit and the case can proceed. The lawsuit is now public and the defendant is aware of it.

If the government has decided to intervene, it will often try to settle the case with the defendant. Most qui tam lawsuits end in settlement and do not go to trial.

How Long Does the Qui Tam Lawsuit Process Take?

Unfortunately, there is no sure answer to this question. There are many variables, such as the strength of the lawsuit, who the defendant is, whether it goes to trial (or settles), whether it’s appealed, how complex the fraud is and how long the government needs to investigate the fraud allegations.

After a complaint is under seal, the government has at least 60 days to conduct its investigation and decide whether it will intervene. However, most of the time, the government receives extensions and will take as much time as it needs to conduct its investigation. This can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Then assuming the government decides to intervene, the lawsuit can proceed. The government contacts the defendant and tries to negotiate a settlement. In the absence of a settlement, the lawsuit will proceed like a typical civil lawsuit. This means it can take years before trial and after the trial, it could be another few years while the case is on appeal.

So what’s the bottom line? A qui tam lawsuit can take anywhere from a few months to decades. However, most whistleblowers who start their qui tam lawsuits should expect it to take several years, at least.

Questions about the Qui Tam Lawsuit Process?

Learn more about the qui tam lawsuit process by contacting the Bothwell Law Group.

Who Pays for a Qui Tam Law Firm?

Qui Tam Law Firm

Qui Tam Law FirmWhen working with a qui tam law firm, one of the first questions you’re probably going to ask is, “How much will this case cost me?” It’s a reasonable question. You want to know how much you’ll be paying out of pocket, and what the impacts might be for you and your family.

While we can’t speak for every law firm, there is a general pattern most reputable firms follow. Keep reading to learn about the costs you can expect to incur at various stages throughout the process.

Initial Fees: Filing a Qui Tam or False Claims Lawsuit

To initiate your lawsuit, you will be required to cover a few small expenses. Generally speaking, there will be a court filing fee, and some administrative costs you will have to pay. However, in the event you win your case, you will be reimbursed for these expenses out of your settlement. You also have the right to request it directly as part of the settlement; something your attorney should be happy to provide.

Continuing the Qui Tam Lawsuit

As the lawsuit and settlement run their course, you’re unlikely to have to pay your attorney anything. This is because most attorneys operate on a contingency fee arrangement. This means they agree to a share of the recovered monies, and they take their expenses from the resulting settlement amount.

There is also a strong possibility that the defendant will be required to cover all statutory fees. Again, this is only in cases where you receive a favorable settlement, but you are entitled to ask for it under the False Claims statutes.

What Happens If You Lose the False Claims Case?

Honestly, it depends. Most contingent fee clauses stipulate fees will only become due and payable upon successful conclusion of the defined scope of legal work. While this usually means a favorable outcome (i.e. the court awards you money, or you reach a favorable settlement outside the courtroom), you should pay close attention to the wording of the contract.

There is the possibility that your lawyer will define a successful conclusion as ANY outcome. This means you may be on the hook for the fees you’ve incurred to this point, even if you don’t win anything in the way of monetary compensation.

What Does All This Mean In the End?

Bottom line? You can file and take your case quite a considerable distance with very little money out of pocket. Just be sure to pay close attention to the documents you are signing, and what the limitations are with regards to a payout of attorney fees at the end of an unsuccessful case.

How Can You Learn More About Qui Tam Representation?

Call 770.643.1606 to find out more about our qui tam law firm by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.