What if you could earn financial rewards for exposing fraudulent claims to the federal government? Incentivizing citizen deputies to help fight fraud is actually a major part of the False Claims Act (FCA), a federal law that can award whistleblowers a bounty of up to 30% of any funds recovered. The FCA has proven quite effective in protecting taxpayer dollars, recovering nearly $5 billion in fraudulent claims in 2016 alone. However, before you start a new career as a government watchdog, there are some important limitations to the law that you should keep in mind, particularly regarding time limits to file your claim.
The False Claims Act statute of limitations can put an end to even the most meritorious cases. Below is an overview of the FCA's filing deadlines to help you avoid losing a worthwhile case on a technicality.
Beating the FCA Clock
Many in the modern world lament the tyranny of time, but this is a tyranny that reigns supreme in a legal world that revolves around court calendars and deadlines. Many rights and remedies are often tied to strict statutes of limitations and those contained in the FCA are no different.
When it comes to the False Claims Act statute of limitations it's important to first note that FCA cases can be prosecuted by the government as well as individuals. This is true even for cases originally filed by individuals. In those cases, courts are required to seal the FCA complaint for at least 60 days after it is filed so that the government can decide whether to intervene. If the government does step in to lead an FCA case, it can affect the applicable statute of limitations.
FCA Cases Prosecuted by Individuals
In those cases that proceed with individuals as the sole plaintiffs (who are also referred to as "relators"), the text of the FCA states that the civil action must be brought within six years after the date of the violation. In most cases this would be six years from the date that a fraudulent claim is submitted to the federal government.
FCA Cases Prosecuted by the Government
In those FCA cases prosecuted by the federal government, the statute of limitations shifts to three years, although this is not calculated from the date the false claim was submitted. Instead, it's three years from the date when the U.S. official in a position to take action on the false claim knows or reasonably should be able to know the material facts of the case.
In those cases where the fraudulence of a claim is not evident at the time of submittal, this three year statute of limitations could end up being quite distant from the actual submission date of the fraudulent claim. Because of this, the FCA ultimately places an outer limit on FCA filings as no cases can be filed over ten years from when the fraudulent claim was submitted.
Can You Sue Under the FCA? Speak With a Lawyer Today
The FCA presents unique opportunities for individuals to not only help detect and remedy fraud on the federal government, but also to earn a reward in the process. However, along with the False Claims Act statute of limitations, there are other restrictions on who can file FCA claims. Learn more about your rights under the FCA by speaking with a whistleblower-qui tam attorney near you today.
Contact a qualified whistleblower law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.