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May 02, 2023 | North Carolina Whistleblower

How Long Do You Have to File a Whistleblower Complaint?

By: Bill Nettles

Fraud against the federal government costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Healthcare fraud, the leading source of whistleblower judgments and settlements according to the U.S. Department of Justice, amounts to nearly $60 billion a year lost by itself. U.S. Department of Justice amounts to nearly $60 billion a year lost by itself. Whistleblowers are responsible for exposing most fraud under the False Claims Act (FCA), but face a ticking clock to step forward.

As a former U.S. Attorney, I’ve seen great whistleblower cases fall apart because they weren’t filed in time. When this happens, it’s sometimes because the whistleblower wasn’t aware that there’s a deadline. Other times, whistleblowers might be aware of the deadline, but think they have more time than they do.

It’s important to remember that you’re not just racing the clock, you’re racing others. The first person to act is in the best position to receive a potential award.

Whistleblowers are responsible for exposing most fraud under the FCA but face a ticking clock to step forward.

If you suspect fraud against the government, reach out to a whistleblower attorney as soon as possible – even if you’re not sure whether you have a case or not. We can evaluate your case confidentially and advise you on the best course of action for you. Contact us online or by calling 1-888-292-8852 for a free case evaluation from a Carolina Whistleblower Attorney.

What is the whistleblower statute of limitations?

The filing deadline by which you must file your whistleblower complaint is known as the statute of limitations. This time limit is generally rigid and if you don’t file your whistleblower complaint within the statute of limitations, it may fail regardless of its merits.

According to whistleblower law, there are actually separate statutes of limitations with different time limits. One is for the “relator,” the person who blows the whistle, and one for the government.

  • For whistleblowers or “relators,” the time limit to file a complaint is six years after the violation occurred, or three years after the government became aware or should’ve become aware of it.
  • If the government prosecutes the case, the statute of limitations to file a complaint is three years after the U.S. official in a position to take action knows or should have been able to know the material facts of the case.
    • Sometimes the violation isn’t evident at the time of the claim’s filing, thus requiring further investigation. In these cases, whistleblower laws can extend the timeframe of the government’s statute of limitations to 10 years after the violation

Six years may seem like a long time – it’s not! Whistleblower claims are often complex with many different entities involved. You and your attorney will need time to build your case, and some unavoidable delays may occur along the way. If you suspect fraud, contact an experienced whistleblower attorney right away.

Whistleblowers or relators generally have 6 years after the violation occurred to file their claim.

Why is there a statute of limitations for filing whistleblower complaints?

There are a number of reasons why a filing deadline is generally beneficial to all parties involved in whistleblower actions, such as:

  • Evidence may get lost or become unusable over time
  • Witnesses’ memories may fade
  • The courts may become bogged down with dockets full of old cases
  • Whistleblower protection may be necessary when there’s retaliation, requiring urgency in proceedings

What reward can I receive as a whistleblower?

In addition to a strong sense of duty and a desire to right a wrong, a whistleblower may blow the whistle to get a reward for their courage in coming forward. The law allows whistleblowers to receive up to 30% of the government’s recovery.

Learn More: What can you expect to be rewarded in a whistleblower case?

How long do I have to file a whistleblower retaliation complaint?

If your employer or supervisor subjects you to any adverse action due to your pursuit of a whistleblowing complaint against them, you may be entitled to the following whistleblower protections:

  • Reinstatement if you’ve been fired, suspended, or demoted
  • Double back pay, plus interest
  • Special damages such as litigation costs, attorney’s fees, emotional distress, and other noneconomic harm as a result of the retaliation

A whistleblower retaliation complaint also has a statute of limitations by which the employee must file. The statute of limitations for a whistleblower retaliation complaint is generally three years after the adverse action occurred.

Do I need a whistleblower attorney to file my claim?

While it’s possible in some jurisdictions to file a whistleblower complaint under the FCA without the aid of an attorney, we advise against it. Whistleblower laws are complex and there are several benefits to hiring an experienced whistleblower attorney to help you.

By not hiring an attorney to support your whistleblower complaint, you may increase your risk of encountering the following pitfalls:

  1. Missing the statute of limitations deadline
  2. Submitting information incorrectly
  3. Retaliation from your employer
  4. Getting a lower reward than you otherwise might have gotten
  5. Failing to convince the government to intervene

Whistleblower complaints are more likely to result in a recovery if the government decides to intervene. An experienced whistleblower lawyer can help you put together a case that can pique the government’s interest.

Why choose Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys?

Our attorneys have represented dozens of whistleblowers and have recovered tens of millions of dollars in total settlements since 2016. During my tenure as U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, my office helped recover more than $307 million in taxpayer money.1

Our team knows how to help you, and we won’t accept any fee unless you receive a reward.2

Learn More: How our You-First Policy puts you in control.

Contact us online or call 1-888-292-8852 for a free, confidential discussion. We’ll evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action for you moving forward.



You may also be interested in

NC Healthcare Fraud Case Underscores Need for Whistleblowers

A Complete Guide to FCA Whistleblower Awards

The Whistleblower Process

Bill Nettles avatar

Bill Nettles


About the Author

Bill Nettles has dedicated much of his career advocating for whistleblowers. He spent six years as the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina where he redirected resources to the False Claims Division of the office, bringing the state to a top-4 ranking in the country for whistleblower recoveries during his tenure.1 He is admitted to practice to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In addition to serving as a Board Member of the False Claims Division of the Federal Bar Association, Bill is a frequent lecturer on false claims issues throughout the country.

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Whistleblower Attorneys

If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to speak with a whistleblower lawyer about what you know, let us set the record straight.

  • Corporate ethics hotlines can be risky and may lead to termination. If you’ve already done this, call us immediately.
  • Your coworkers could be aware of the fraud – or complicit in it – and you should not talk to them about it.
  • The first claim to be filed under the False Claims Act can proceed – if you’re not first, you’re at a serious disadvantage and may get nothing (another reason not to speak to your coworkers about it).
  • A confidential discussion costs you a few minutes, but could save you time, stress, and money.


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