The National Highway Transportation Safety Act created the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act. It is a relatively new act and there have not been many successful cases yet. It is so new that there have not been strict regulations enacted as to how to file such a case or what a whistleblower is supposed to do under their case. The idea is that if someone in the industry is aware of a potentially dangerous defect in a motor vehicle, they could report it. If the government takes the case, prosecutes it, and supports their action, a whistleblower could be entitled to a reward. The NHTSA Whistleblower Program is the newest whistleblower reward law out there. For more information, contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer.
Reward for Whistleblowers
The NHTSA Whistleblower Program reward is calculated based on whatever the government collects. This whistleblower reward law is not a true qui tam action like the False Claims Act. It is more like the Securities and Exchange Commission whistleblower law and that the whistleblower files with the Department of Transportation, hoping the Department of Transportation takes an action on behalf of the government. If there is no recovery, then there is no action for the whistleblower.
Eligibility for Whistleblowers on Vehicle Safety Violation
The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act does not allow just any member of the general public to file such a case and be a whistleblower on vehicle safety violation. The whistleblower has to show some connection within the motor vehicle industry. There are many people who work one way or the other for a motor vehicle manufacturer, dealers, or the like. To be eligible for a reward under this particular law, there is no provision for the general public, which is unusual since most of these laws do not restrict who could be a whistleblower. They restrict the quality of the information to be provided by the whistleblower. This law makes a requirement that the whistleblower is a person with some direct connection to the industry at the time they learn of the allegations.
Is a Whistleblower Eligible to Receive an Award if They are Subpoenaed?
An individual may be eligible to receive a whistleblower reward if subpoenaed during an investigation. The issue is whether a whistleblower has come forward with information voluntarily. It is possible for a whistleblower to provide information under this law or other whistleblower laws to the government to the Department of Transportation for example, prior to a subpoena being issued. They could file their claim prior to a subpoena being issued and for whatever reason be subject to a subpoena thereafter. That could happen for a number of reasons. This likely will not work if the subpoena is issued first.
The whistleblower has to provide the original information to the government and has to do so voluntarily. The response to a subpoena is usually not a voluntary action and could undercut the whistleblower’s claim to have provided materials to the government on a voluntary basis. The government is looking at information that otherwise would not have been obtained with a whistleblower coming forward from volition.
How an Attorney Could Help
The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act is a new law that is complicated. It requires considerable effort by an individual who comes forward to make the case that there is a defect worth reporting to NHTSA that they should pursue and be entitled to an award.
Similar to the SEC and the CFTC whistleblower programs, an NHTSA whistleblower needs counsel if they wish to pursue the claim anonymously. Therefore, if the whistleblower wants to make a claim and keep their name out of the process for as long as possible, they need counsel to pursue the action under those circumstances.
Someone should contact a lawyer when they are considering blowing the whistle on auto safety issues. By speaking with an attorney, the person could at least get an initial take as to whether or not their claim has some chance of creating an action that would provide them with an award. Also, a lawyer could inform them about how it may affect their rights with respect to other actions they may have if they are blowing the whistle and/or if they know of other frauds that are not necessarily high-risk safety act on the laws. Call a lawyer today about the NHTSA Whistleblower Program.