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The risks of relying on non-meteorologist experts in weather-related legal cases



Your case could be at risk if you rely on non-meteorologist experts in weather-related legal cases. A recent case highlights the credibility concerns and the need for meteorological expertise.

Key Highlights

Relying on non-meteorologist experts for weather-related cases poses substantial risks, including data misrepresentation and lack of expertise.

A recent case highlighted this risk when a District Court of Appeal in Florida excluded a non-meteorologist expert’s opinion about wind speeds

AccuWeather’s Forensic Services offers comprehensive support, including detailed site-specific reports, expert testimony and weather-related incident analysis to boost your legal case.

In a recent legal case, an insurance company was in a dispute over a wind damage claim. This case involves the use of an expert witness whose testimony relied on automated weather data from a vendor. While the court upheld the insured’s claim, there were significant concerns raised about the credibility of the expert’s testimony.1

The case began when an adjuster reported a wind damage claim to the insurance company on behalf of the insured. The insured claimed that the damage occurred on August 1, 2020. The insurance carrier responded by requesting proof of loss, repair estimates, and related documents. After inspecting the property, the insurance company partially denied the claim, citing that the damage did not meet the policy deductible. Unsatisfied with this decision, the insured replaced the roof at their own expense and filed a lawsuit against their insurance carrier.

One of the key points of this case surrounds the testimony of an expert witness retained by the insured. The insurance company had raised concerns about the expert’s qualifications and the reliability of the data on which his testimony was based. Despite these objections, the trial court allowed the expert’s testimony.

>>READ MORE: AccuWeather's forensics: Answering your most frequently asked questions

In this case, the insurance company challenged the expert’s reliance on automated weather data and the lack of support for its credibility. The expert said he “used it all the time,” but it was insufficient to establish its reliability.

The insurance carrier successfully challenged the reliability of the expert witness’s testimony, leading to the court’s decision to reverse the judgment and remand the case for a new trial. This outcome underscores the importance of critically evaluating expert testimony, especially in cases involving automated weather data and non-meteorologist experts.

Legal professionals and insurance carriers should exercise caution when relying on experts lacking the qualifications and ability to provide credible testimony regarding a weather loss. It is essential to thoroughly assess the methodology, data sources, and expertise of expert witnesses in weather-related cases to ensure the integrity of the legal process.

Relying on non-meteorologist experts to testify about automated weather data from vendors in legal cases carries significant risks:

  • Lack of Expertise: Non-meteorologist experts may lack the knowledge to interpret complex meteorological data accurately.
  • Data Misinterpretation: These experts may misinterpret data without meteorological training, leading to incorrect conclusions.
  • Reliability Challenges: Non-experts may struggle to prove how reliable the weather data is, potentially using flawed information.
  • Weather Model Understanding: Non-meteorologist experts may not grasp the strengths and limitations of weather models.
  • Case Outcomes: Relying on non-experts can lead to unjust legal decisions, impacting both parties involved.
  • Legal Costs and Delays: Engaging non-meteorologist experts may lead to prolonged legal proceedings, increased costs, and complexity.

To ensure the fairness and accuracy of weather-related cases, it is crucial to engage qualified meteorologists, such as the experts of AccuWeather's Forensic team, who can navigate meteorological complexities and provide reliable testimony, upholding legal standards and safeguarding all parties’ interests.

 AccuWeather’s Forensic Meteorology offers a team of expert forensic meteorologists who can provide support to different types of cases, including slip-and-fall incidents, automobile accidents, insurance disputes, property damage claims, aviation incidents, personal injury cases, criminal investigations, wrongful death suits, and more. 

Our comprehensive consulting services are designed to enhance your case’s strengths or reveal weaknesses when strategizing your case. Could one of our forensic meteorologists help your case? Request a consultation today to learn more.

1 Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company v. Edward Navlen and Saunee Navelen No. 4D2022-1590

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