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The Forensic Meteorologist as a Litigation Expert Witness

July 16, 2021

Round Table Group recently invited John Lavin, CCM, Director of Forensic Services at AccuWeather For Business, to discuss and explain ways forensic meteorologists are used as expert witnesses in litigation. 

Please explain what a forensic meteorologist does and what types of expert witness work you are called upon to do. In what types of cases would a forensic meteorologist’s expertise be relevant?

The weather surrounds us and affects our daily lives. In some cases, the weather could have been a factor in a lawsuit. Forensic meteorologists are being relied on more as expert witnesses in weather-related cases. Forensic meteorology is a reconstruction of the weather at a particular time and place using the latest science in meteorology.

Our forensic meteorology team at AccuWeather For Business has been retained by both plaintiff and defense parties in numerous cases. For example, we have been involved in a variety of insurance-related cases such as bad faith claims, breach of contract, and insurance fraud. A forensic meteorologist is retained when disputed facts to hazardous weather conditions, such as hail occurrence, may or may not have caused a covered insurance loss. AccuWeather For Business also provides business-to-business weather solutions in the supply chain industry, including various forensic services.

Would you expand upon that? What forensic meteorology services could be needed in the supply chain industry?

Recently, there have been several disruptions to the supply chain industry, including COVID-19 shutdowns, blockage of the Suez Canal, and extreme cold weather over Texas in February 2021. Our team of forensic meteorologists can determine if and when disruptive weather conditions began and ended along a route. These facts can assist with determining if the weather was a contributing factor to a logistical delay or not. Furthermore, our team has the expertise to opine on the frequency of extreme weather events, such as the extremely cold temperatures in Texas.

Isn’t weather data available online or from other free sources? Why is it important for an attorney litigating a case to hire a forensic meteorologist as an expert witness rather than rely on these sources?

In the information age, there are many free sources of weather information online. However, this data is often misinterpreted, prone to errors, and irrelevant to a location of interest.  For example, in a recent investigation for an insurance claim, wind data from a home weather station was retrieved from a free weather website by an engineering firm. The station only measured up to 11 mph winds on the date of loss. However, the home weather station was installed only a few feet off the ground and placed directly next to a home. These conditions do not meet the quality-controlled standards meteorologists need to evaluate and measure winds.

It turns out a localized thunderstorm produced much greater winds, specifically at the loss property, as determined by a trained meteorologist who interpreted the archived weather radar data and quality-controlled surface wind observations. A forensic meteorologist can gather all relevant and reliable data and formulate, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, their expert opinion of the weather conditions at a particular time and place.

If you need a weather expert, please reach out to Round Table Group. To learn more about AccuWeather For Business, please visit https://business.accuweather.com/. To learn more about Round Table Group, please visit our website. or call (202) 908-4500.

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