Were there footprints in the snow? Laura can tell you when the snow started and stopped which allows you to close the gap on when something happened.
“The sun was in my eyes” has been blamed on many a car accident. Sun angle can be researched and provided as can moonlight, sunshine versus cloud cover, etc.
Many times a trial can be avoided once the facts are uncovered. Other times, it can allow for a trial to move forward when evidence was lacking.
Here are some real-life examples of how weather can be related to a loss, death or injury:
Case: Plaintiff v. McDonald’s Restaurant
Jurisdiction: District Court - Denver, Colorado
Synopsis: Plaintiff brought a law suit against the Defendant for injuries and losses sustained in an alleged slip and fall incident at a McDonald’s restaurant.
An investigation was requested into the weather events surrounding the date of the alleged slip and fall and to determine the amount of snow and/or ice present.
Investigative Finding: Recorded temperatures were above freezing with clear skies and no weather was present at the time of the incident. Any accumulations present prior to the incident would have been in the melting stage.
Case: Plaintiff v. Emerald Valley Townhomes Assn.
Synopsis: Plaintiff’s family brought a law suit against the Defendant for alleged slip and fall.
An investigation was requested into the weather events surrounding the date of the date of loss and to determine the amount of snow and/or ice present, if any.
Investigative Finding: Weather data collected revealed periods of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, mist, freezing fog and sustained temperatures below freezing preceding the date of incident. There were supported by radar images and other meteorological records.
Client: Geico Insurance Company
Synopsis: Client requested meteorological data and interpretation in order to prove weather or not work was done on the dates and times provided by the worker.
Investigative Finding: Recorded weather conditions were provided and were used to validate some of the dates, although it was determined that other dates the weather would have been such that the worker would not have been able to accomplished the work as stated.
Client: U.S. Air Force v. Defendant
Jurisdiction: Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, CO
Synopsis: Client requested meteorological data and interpretation in order to prove what the weather conditions were in an alleged rape which happened in Wyoming.
Investigative Finding: Recorded weather conditions were provided and were used to highlight the fact that it had been below freezing at the location of incident. This was a key factor in the case because the victim was threated that if she did not comply with the Defendant’s demands, she would be left in the middle of nowhere (in freezing conditions) to walk home. This also added more weight to the threat as it could have been considered a threat to her life - she could have frozen to death in the reported conditions. Defendant subsequently plead guilty to avoid a jury trial after this evidence was provided to counsel.
Client: Miller & McCarren, PC
Location: Adams County District Court - Colorado
Synopsis: Plaintiff’s family brought a law suit against the Defendant for wrongful death. The HOA’s argument was that, according to their Bylaws, they were not required to perform snow and ice removal until a certain threshold was met. Therefore, they were not liable.
An investigation was requested into the weather events leading up to the date of loss and to determine the amount of snow and/or ice present, if any.
Investigative Finding: Weather data collected revealed a precipitation measurement (in the form of snow) on the date of the incident which met the threshold for snow removal set by the HOA’s Bylaws. This allowed attorneys to move forward with a 5-day jury trial to attempt to recover for the wrongful death.
Client: The Guerrini Law Firm
Location: Sherman Oaks, California
Synopsis: Client requested evidence of rainfall totals for the area relative to a flooding incident.
An investigation was requested into the weather events leading up to the date of the date of loss and to determine the amount of precipitation recorded, if any.
Investigative Finding: Weather data was collected, reviewed, and reported to the client with satisfactory outcomes.
Client: Ryder Truck, Inc.
Location: Atkinson, Georgia
Synopsis: Client requested evidence of weather conditions for a section of highway where an accident involving one of their vehicles and drivers occurred.
An investigation was requested into the weather events just prior to and during the date and time of loss and to determine if weather was a factor in this case.
Investigative Finding: Weather stations were located, data was collected, reviewed and reported to the client with satisfactory outcomes.
Client: Law Office of Robert D. Lowe
Location: Davis, Illinois
Synopsis: Client requested Expert Witness testimony and analysis of whether winds would have been strong enough to move an 85-pound canoe into a nearby yard causing property damage and personal injury.
An investigation was requested into the weather events just prior to and during the date and time of loss and to determine if the winds would have been strong enough to be a factor.
Investigative Finding: Wind data was collected, reviewed and reported to the client with satisfactory outcome and Expert testimony was given in Illinois in preparation for trial.
Hours: 1.0 (Expert travel and time not included in this accounting)
Client: Hankins & Conklin, P.C.
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Synopsis: Client requested a review of deposition documents and materials related to a highway accident and for validation of the weather conditions on the date, time and at the location of the incident and to aid in bringing a suit against the Missouri Highways & Transportation Department for failing to address reported dangerous roadway conditions.
An investigation was requested into the weather events just prior to and during the dates and times of losses and to determine whether the conditions were as described by deposed witnesses.
Investigative Finding: Depositions were reviewed and weather data collections to validate testimony and a report was provided to the client.
Client: Zbinden & Curtis
Location: Proposal Rock, Neskowin, Oregon (Tillamook County)
Synopsis: Client requested information regarding weather conditions at Proposal Rock in Neskowin, Oregon after a man brought his girlfriend there (in November) and she subsequently drown. The woman’s family filed a civil suit for wrongful death (negligence).
Investigative Finding: Average wave heights, temperatures, and general weather conditions were provided and specific weather data for the date, time and location of loss were collected and reported to the client. Expert testimony was also provided.
Hours: 23.5 (Expert travel and time not included in this accounting)
Weather data is collected and reported every hour at approximately 5 minutes to the top of the hour and disseminated on the hour (which is how it is ultimately collected by the National Weather Service under the U.S. Department of Commerce). The result is a list of hourly weather conditions for the entire 24-hour period on one report for that particular station. There are stations like these all over the world. Some are manned with a live human, and some are not. The sparse amount of weather buoys at sea make data over the ocean very challenging to obtain and to accurately forecast coastal conditions.
When weather conditions change, weather observations are conducted more frequently. For example, precipitation must be recorded each time it stops or starts. If it stops or starts frequently, you will recognize this as “rain showers” which are produced by a certain type of cloud as opposed to “rain” which is constant over time and produced by another type of cloud.
Measurements include all forms of precipitation (i.e. rain, snow, hail, freezing rain, etc.). Wind events are marked when they meet a certain threshold and much of the data is reported in code. Other items recorded are visibility, temperature, dew point, pressure (altimeter), wind speed and direction and any other phenomena such as lightning, thunder, tornadoes, etc. This also allows you to establish or prove a timeline when you need one.
Prior to becoming a full-fledged “Forensic Meteorologist” Laura investigated a case (@ 1996) while working in her capacity as a Paralegal Claims Examiner in the U.S. Air Force. A Claimant filed a tort claim against the government stating that his prize-winning stallion had died after it impaled itself on a metal fence post due to being startled by low flying aircraft from the nearby Air Force base.
A site visitation was conducted, photographs were taken, and information and a formal statement from the Claimant were collected. Upon returning to the base, Laura visited the base Weather Station (as Weather Observing was her former career field prior to becoming a Paralegal). She requested a copy of the weather conditions from the date of the incident.
Once the data was reviewed, it was clear that there had been thunderstorms and lightning on the date and time in question and therefore his claim was denied as military aircraft would not have been flying in thunderstorms with lightning. This could also be backed up by flight records from the Aircraft Control Tower (or the FAA).
From then on, it made sense to include weather as the “silent witness” in any cases, including criminal cases, she was investigating. In 2001 she started "Weather or Not Consulting, LLC" and worked exclusively on weather-related cases. In 2016, Laura achieved a lifelong goal of becoming a licensed Private Investigator in the State of Oregon, and has incorporated Forensic Meteorology as her specialty.
How does Forensic Meteorology apply to casework?
Forensic Meteorology is the scientific study of meteorology ("weather") as applied to the process of reconstructing weather-related events for a prescribed date, time and location. Results are achieved by acquiring and analyzing local weather reports such as surface observations, radar and satellite images and documenting eyewitness accounts and then analyzing, interpreting, decoding and providing a detailed conclusion in a report to the client.
Forensic meteorologists are commonly requested by law enforcement, insurance companies and attorneys for use of evidence and testimony in court cases, including insurance disputes, personal injury cases, murder investigations and more!
How is weather data collected?
What IS Forensic Meteorology?