Consulting with a Weather Expert vs. a Weather Report

by Steve Roberts, CCM, President & Forensic Weather Expert

Business people negotiating a contract. Human hands working with documents at desk and signing contract.When working on a weatherrelated case or claim, it is important to engage with a qualified forensic weather expert to get an accurate understanding of the weather prior to making important decisions. When first engaging with a weather expert, there are two paths that can initially be taken. You can have the expert start by writing a straightforward report, or else have the expert review case materials and provide a consultation prior to writing a report. That said, when does each option make the most sense? 

When faced with this decision, ask yourself whether the matter is anticipated to be litigated. You should always have a weather expert review the case details, documents, and weather, and consult with them prior to getting a report. This will help you to be properly prepared for a litigated weather-related matter. In addition, this will assure there are no surprises as the matter moves closer to trial. Although many insurance claims can lead to litigation, others only require an upfront weather assessment to rule out fraud. This is an ideal situation to have a forensic weather expert start by preparing a straightforward report.   

As a cautionary tale, there is a third path which many often choose. That is to forgo using a forensic weather expert altogether and go straight to the internet for free weather data. This is not wise as such data can be misleading and inaccurate, thus costing a lot more down the road. Even if a claim is not expected to be litigated, having an accurate analysis of the weather backed by a qualified forensic weather expert will save lots of time and money when a claim crosses into litigation. 

For legal cases, there are many reasons why consulting with a forensic weather expert prior to getting a report is crucial to a favorable outcome. Equipping a forensic weather expert with the case materials for review prior to writing a report will avoid pitfalls later. The fine details of a legal case often determine liability, and the final outcome.   

For example, with a slip and fall, a straightforward initial weather report may conclude that there was no natural snow or ice cover present at the time of loss. Therefore, there was nothing for the plaintiff to have slipped on. However, upon review of testimony, all parties involved disclosed that there were nearby man-made snow piles. That allowed for a source of ice that the plaintiff allegedly slipped on.  

In another example, an automobile accident occurred on a sunny morning in early November. While the temperature was below freezing at the time, no snow or ice had accumulated yet that year.  An attorney asked a forensic weather expert to prepare a straightforward report. The expert determined that there was no weather-related accumulation of ice present on level exposed outdoor surfaces. Meanwhile, there is testimony that the accident occurred in an area where water typically collects after rainstorms. An engineer’s report confirmed this was indeed the case. If the weather expert had known this prior to writing a report, they could have noted that rain fell the day before. They would determine that any leftover rainwater froze into ice in depressed areas in the hours before the accident.

These types of case facts can shift liability from a snow and ice removal company to a property owner. That could change the whole complexion of a case. These fine details may help or hurt an attorney’s case. However, no attorney wants to discover them after significant time has been spent building a case on only an initial straightforward weather report.   

When unsure of which path to take, it is always best to speak with a qualified forensic weather expert during the early stages of a weather-related case or claim. This way, you can make important decisions with a full understanding of the weather.   

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.