The False Claims Act (FCA) encourages citizens to confidentially report dishonest use of governmental money and imposes consequences on those who committed the fraud. The whistleblower is protected and typically receives a share of the recovered money. However, FCA lawsuits must follow specific procedures. If you are thinking of initiating a FCA lawsuit, a good place to start is by understanding when someone may be liable for a false claim.
The entity that submitted a false claim for payment to the government may be liable under the FCA if the claim was fraudulent. This means the claim was incorrect and the entity that submitted it knew that the claim was incorrect, intentionally maintained ignorance of the claim or disregarded the falsity of the claim.
Some common types of false claims include:
- Billing for something that was never delivered
- Double billing for something
- Not reporting government overpayments
- Falsifying a condition of payment
- Billing for something that was unnecessary
The FCA applies to any entity that directly or indirectly receives state or federal funding. However, only claims from the past six years can be acted upon.
If you choose to pursue a lawsuit, your attorney must file the claim on your behalf. Once a claim is filed, the government has 60 days to decide to if it will participate in the lawsuit. Even if the government does not choose to participate, you may continue the lawsuit on your own.
If the lawsuit is successful, the entity that submitted the fraudulent claim may be responsible for hefty civil penalties as well as three times the amount of damages. If you are the first to bring forward the false claim, you could be awarded up to 30 percent of the penalty and damage amount.
Initiating a FCA lawsuit can lead to receiving a substantial amount of money. However, before beginning this process, it is important to make sure you understand what qualifies as a false claim under the FCA.