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.
For instance, one of the most valuable types of data used in investigations
is Doppler radar. When using Doppler
radar, experts say that the incident location can be plotted on the radar map
itself and enlarged to help discern when
precipitation fell, how much accumulated, when it started and stopped, and its
intensity over the location of the event.
Doppler radar images are usually taken
every 6 minutes while precipitation is
falling. The radar images can be instrumental in providing a meteorologist
with information about precipitation,
many times down to the minute, at the
location of the incident itself, not just at
the closest airport.
For instance, I once dealt with a slip
and fall case where the weather at the
closest airport differed greatly from the
weather at the nearby incident location.
It was not snowing at John F. Kennedy
(JFK) International Airport in Queens,
New York at the time of the incident, but
it was snowing over the incident location
on the south shore of Nassau County,
New York, which is just 10 miles to the
east. Doppler radar images showed that
a storm was producing a great deal of
heavy snow over the incident location,
though the storm did not actually reach
Had someone only relied on the weather at JFK Airport where it had been dry
all day, he or she would have never known
that a heavy snowstorm was in progress
a mere 10 miles to the east of JFK. Here,
the old adage, “it can actually rain on one
side of the street but not the other,” is correct, at least to an extent.
Another common misconception is
that melting can only occur when the
temprature is above freezing ( 32 degrees
Fahrenheit). In reality, melting can happen when the air temperature is as low as
23 degrees Fahrenheit in the presence of
direct sunlight. Therefore, even though
it may not have snowed for 5 days, new
SLIP AND FALL SET-UPS
In 2010, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
released a report that showed an increase in the
number of questionable slip and fall claims targeting
businesses and their insurance companies.
Between 2008 and 2010, there was a 57-percent
increase in the number of slip and fall questionable
claims (QCs) submitted by NICB member companies.
In the first quarter of 2008, there were 325 slip and fall
QCs, and that number worked its way up to 565 in the
fourth quarter of 2009. Additionally, there were 997
slip and fall QCs referred to the NICB in the first half
of 2010 alone.
In total, there were more than 4,600 questionable
claims, which were mostly (63 percent) tied to commercial general liability policies. Other
policy types of slip and fall QCs included commercial multi-peril ( 8 percent), personal
property – homeowners ( 8 percent), commercial liability – business owners ( 5 percent),
commercial liability – other ( 4 percent), and workers’ compensation and employers’ liability
( 3 percent). Nine percent of policy types were unknown.
“While many people have legitimate accidents in stores and businesses across the country,
we’ve seen a growing number of cases that have some indication of potential fraud,” said
Joe Wehrle, NICB president and chief executive officer. “Our agents, working with insurance
company investigators and law enforcement, are busy identifying and targeting organized
criminal rings that make a good living staging slip and fall accidents.”
These rings are seen in areas already overwhelmed with insurance fraud. The states with
the most slip and fall QCs during this time period were California, Florida, New York, Illinois,
and Texas, while the most popular cities included New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia,
Las Vegas, and Chicago. NICB data reveals that California, Texas, Florida, and New York are
four of the five states that generate 49 percent of QCs across the U.S.
Wehrle explained how many fraudsters execute a plan to slip and fall. “A typical slip and
fall case may involve two people going into a big box store or retailer, and splitting up,” he
said. “The first person goes down an aisle while the other keeps a lookout. When the coast
is clear, he or she pulls out a small bottle of liquid, pours it on the floor and then pretends to
fall on the floor. The partner runs to assist and tells everyone that he witnessed the fall.”
Source: The National Insurance Crime Bureau
ice may have formed 30 minutes before a
slip-and-fall accident occurred. This scenario is very common.
Cases involving the weather’s effect on
motor vehicles also happen frequently.
In these cases, forensic meteorologists
investigate whether dense fog, poor visibility, sun glare, or strong winds impaired the driver’s ability to safely operate
the vehicle. Other automobile cases may
involve hydroplaning, black ice, or high
speeds in rainy or snowy conditions.
Forensic meteorologists also work on
a lot of different types of property dam-
age and personal injury claims, often in-
volving high winds where trees or limbs
were blown onto houses, vehicles, or
unfortunately, people. Many times, these
incidents are caused by an isolated severe
thunderstorm, microburst, tornado, or
strong damaging winds over 58 miles per
hour behind a cold front. Sometimes, the
forensic expert may discover that winds
do not exceed 20 miles per hour at an in-
cident location, and would therefore not
be strong enough to cause an otherwise
healthy tree or tree limb to fall.