One of the most crucial parts of filing a whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit is evidence gathering. The more evidence you have of the fraud you are alleging, the stronger your case is and the more likely the government is to intervene. However, gathering evidence is not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes there are crucial pieces of evidence needed in your case that you do not already have but that you have the potential to obtain. In this situation, you will want to make sure you go about collecting evidence in a lawful and ethical fashion. After all, the last thing you want is to break the law while you are reporting someone else for breaking the law.
The most important piece of advice is to stay quiet. Do not talk about the fraud you are alleging with your co-workers, friends, or family. Even though it is illegal for employers in California to retaliate against whistleblowers, plenty of employers do it anyway. Not only is losing your job during this time damaging to your personal life, but it is damaging to your case, as well. Without the access you previously had to the company, it will be nearly impossible for you to continue gathering evidence to support your claim.
You also want to be careful about discussing your claim with any friends or family, and that includes posting about it on social media. You do not want anyone else taking the “first to file” status from you, so do not voluntarily hand it over to them.
Do Not do Anything Illegal to Obtain Evidence
When you are on a mission to collect evidence to support your case, it can be easy to zero in on your final goal and ignore the process. This can be especially dangerous, as some whistleblowers find themselves crossing legal and ethical lines in order to obtain evidence that may be difficult to obtain. For example, whistleblowers may try to secretly record a meeting with their supervisor in order to prove that the company is committing fraud. However, we advise against practices like this, as your case is only as strong as it is legal.
Know the Professional and Ethical Rules in Your Industry
In addition to keeping it legal and ethical on a general business front, you also want to make sure you are aware of all industry laws so that you do not inadvertently break one of your industry rules while in search of evidence. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a key regulation in the healthcare industry. If you are reporting healthcare fraud, you should know that HIPAA exemptions allow you to disclose certain Protected Health Information (PHI) to your attorney under certain circumstances. Speak with your qui tam lawyer about key regulations in your industry so that you are clear on what is permissible and impermissible when it comes to collecting evidence.
Contact an Experienced California Qui Tam Attorney
The attorneys at Willoughby Brod have years of representing whistleblowers in qui tam cases and successfully advising them to receive the highest compensation possible. If you have any questions about filing your qui tam case in the San Francisco area or collecting evidence for your case, contact us at (800) 427-7020 or visit us online to schedule your free consultation today.
(image courtesy of Kristina Flour)