A Storm in Progress is Often Not the Crux of a Slip and Fall Case

by Steve Roberts, CCM

Pedestrians walking on pavement during a snowstormMany attorneys believe that slip and fall cases ultimately hinge on whether or not there was a storm in progress at the time the fall occurred. However, from my experience providing weather analysis and expert testimony on hundreds of slip and fall cases, that’s rarely the case. Slip and fall cases can be very complicated and without a thorough weather reconstruction by a qualified expert, an attorney can spend months developing a strategy that can crumble when the other side hires a weather expert to expose their mistakes. The following are some examples of scenarios that only a weather expert can uncover by doing a proper site-specific forensic weather analysis.

1) For some cases, it’s obvious that there was a storm in progress at the time of the slip and fall. Normally, this would alleviate a defendant from any liability. However, if a plaintiff states they slipped on ice underneath snow, and the storm in progress only produced snow, then it’s critical for a weather expert to determine when the ice formed.

2) Weather data available to an attorney indicates that there was no snow or ice cover present at the time of the slip and fall. However, the plaintiff claims there were snow piles near the slip and fall location. Only a qualified weather expert can determine when prior storms occurred and whether the plaintiff’s claims are supported.

3) Weather data available to an attorney shows that the last winter storm occurred several days prior to a slip and fall on ice. The assumption might be that the condition was long standing, while a weather expert may determine that the ice had just formed within minutes of the incident. This can change the whole complexion of the case for both sides.

4) A winter storm ended 24 hours prior to a slip and fall. However, a weather expert can determine if blowing and drifting snow continued for a period of time after the precipitation ended. This can extend the impacts from a storm when blowing and drifting redeposits snow onto surfaces that were previously cleared.

5) There appears to be no notice of an icy condition that caused a slip and fall. However, a weather expert has access to archived National Weather Service forecasts and statements, which may reveal an icy condition was predicted. In addition to issuing Watches, Warnings and Advisories ahead of winter storms, the National Weather Service also issues special statements to alert the public of non-storm related hazards such as melt-refreeze situations and black ice formation.

These are just a handful of the many scenarios that require a qualified weather expert to sort out for an attorney working on a slip and fall case. When an attorney hires a qualified weather expert early on in a case, they can rest assured that there will not be any unwanted weather-related surprises as their case progresses.

Give CompuWeather a call at (845) 227-8500. Speak with our Certified Consulting Meteorologists and see how their expertise can add value to your legal case or claim.