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How to Choose a False Claims Act Attorney
Because an attorney has “Esquire” behind his or her name does not mean that they are qualified to file any sort of lawsuit, especially a False Claims or Qui Tam case. Although time is of the essence when filing a Qui Tam lawsuit, because only one person is allowed to file, it is important to make sure the attorney or the firm you choose to handle your case is competent.
There are several quick and easy ways to determine if a Qui Tam attorney is qualified to handle a whistleblower case.
Most importantly, you will want an attorney and/or firm that specialize in Qui Tam lawsuits. For example, if an attorney claims that he is able to take your case, but he also handles bankruptcy or DUI cases, you should probably quickly move on and locate a different attorney. Furthermore, if an attorney or firm agrees to take your case without knowing the specifics of the fraudulent acts, you should be skeptical. Since Qui Tam is normally taken on a contingency basis (no cost to the whistleblower until the case is over), it is in the best interests for the attorney and/or firm to ensure that you are able substantiate and/or back up your accusations.
Different types of Qui Tam
Once you find an attorney or firm that specializes in Qui Tam, you will need to make sure that your type of Qui Tam case has been represented before—and with success. There are several types of Qui Tam: tax fraud; federal securities violations; grant fraud; Medicare and Medicaid fraud; public works contracts fraud; defense fraud; pharmaceutical fraud. If you are a healthcare fraud whistleblower, you don’t want an attorney representing you who has little or no experience with healthcare fraud. Additionally, you need to ask what cases, specifically, the attorney has successfully settled and/or tried in Federal Court, and the amount of their client’s award.
If you have found an attorney, one who does not work in a firm, inquire into his case load. Does he have too many clients? If so, he may not have the time required or staffing capabilities to give your case the individual attention it needs.
Make sure that the attorney or firm you choose has the financial resources available to pay for the costs associated with your case. It is important to realize that Qui Tam lawsuits are almost always accepted on a contingency basis. This means that the attorney or firm doesn’t charge you for their time, filing fees, and costs associated with a False Claims Act until the completion of the case, and it doesn’t come out of your reward. Under Qui Tam, an additional award is granted for attorney’s fees and costs. Additionally, if there is any travel required by you to meet with the attorney representing you, they should offer to pay for your travel expenses. At no time should you ever owe money—even if the government decides not to pursue the case—so make sure to inquire about this and that it is included in the retainer agreement.
In some instances, the government may decide not to pursue a criminal case. There is still a way to pursue your case under a civil action. Ask your attorney if he is willing to pursue a False Claims Act case without the help of the government. If so, has he done it before and with success?
These are all questions that you should find out the answers to before choosing an attorney or firm that will handle your Qui Tam lawsuit. Remember that you are the one who is seeking representation, you are the one that is doing the hiring, and Qui Tam attorneys are, essentially, interviewing for the job.