With all of the killer tornadoes, damaging hail storms, crippling blizzards, and record heat waves that we have experienced so far in 2011, the number of claims citing weather-related damages has skyrocketed. As insurance adjusters, CAT teams, engineers, and others scramble to investigate these claims and determine whether a payout is due, it is a good time to think about the role that forensic meteorologists can play in cases where weather could be a major factor. Because these weather events directly affect the insurance industry by increasing the number of P&C claims and policy payouts, forensic meteorologists can be of tremendous value in mitigating unnecessary losses or substantiating payouts.
The type of cases that different forensic meteorologists work on varies tremendously. One of the most common cases they see is of the slip-and-fall variety on snow and ice. In these cases, someone has allegedly sustained injury either on new snow or ice, on pre-existing snow or ice, or a combination of both. In many cases, the climatological data from the closest major airport is the data referenced to determine the weather at a particular time and location. However, this is not recommended, as there is much more detailed information to consider.
Wind-related claims are also abundant during strong thunderstorms. Because severe thunderstorms are often isolated, the weather at the closest major airport miles away may be inaccurate. Once again, if there is a discrepancy between the weather at the incident location and the conditions at the closest major airport, then Doppler radar images can be obtained and used to show that an isolated severe thunderstorm did, in fact, pass over the incident location (yet nowhere near the airport). This information combined with other storm reports or thunderstorm warnings that were issued can result in an entirely different outcome for the claim.
Raining Cats and Dogs