Weather Forensics: The Broken Storm-Damage Insurance Claim System | A Forensic Meteorologist's Perspective
Over 90% of presidential-declared disasters are caused by weather.
According to the National Weather Service, American's GDP varies by up to 3.4% due to weather, or about $545 Billion.
In 2016, 6.8 Million homes were at risk of Hurricane storm surge alone, equating to over $1.5 Trillion.
Billion-dollar storms are on the uptick, and there are likely several storms each year that are significantly underestimated in damage value.
The key pieces of information that are nearly always missing from the insurance claims process are the actual meteorological facts.
Billions to Trillions of dollars are riding on the line each year when it comes to storm damage. Storm damage is an industry - construction, restoration, adjusting, engineering, insurance, appraising, litigating, and so-on. The key pieces of information that are nearly always missing from the insurance claims process are the actual meteorological facts.
Wouldn't it make sense that the weather information be the first step in a complicated, expensive, time-consuming, storm damage insurance claim?
Sure. It would.
And most firms believe this to be true. But they never hire a meteorologist - they think that they solve this problem by either relying on elementary weather knowledge from professional engineers (who are generally not meteorologists), or they pay some pocket-change (generally under $100) for an automated weather report from one of the many "industry-standard" wind or hail services - which generally have no human (not to mention, no meteorologist) input or analysis.
Wouldn't it makes sense that the weather information be the first step in a complicated, expensive, time-consuming storm damage insurance claim?
It is no secret that these weather reports so often fail in their ability to swiftly assist in a storm damage claim. Rarely, if ever, do they carry much weight in court, especially when a smart trial lawyer can easily motion to strike or exclude any meteorological testimony that is not that of an eyewitness or a professional meteorologist.
A smart trial lawyer can easily motion to strike or exclude any meteorological testimony that is not that of an eyewitness of a professional meteorologist
Here's what I notice most often about initial weather information used in an insurance dispute, after a thorough, independent analysis of my own:
When I am brought into a storm damage dispute - whether pre-litigation or during litigation - it is usually pretty easy for me to determine - as a meteorologist - which party has a stronger case (in terms of weather, not policy).
I know that real quick, actually. So, why aren't actually meteorologists brought into the claims process well before the dispute explodes into litigation? Beats me!
When I am brought into a storm damage dispute, it is usually pretty easy for me to determine which party has a stronger case.
Here are some real-life examples in my own experience:
- Hired by Plaintiff Attorney. Previously, said attorney utilized a $15 automated weather report, which had analyzed the wrong hail storm, using the wrong weather radar, ending up with a very wrong conclusion over the subject property.
- Hired by a General Contractor. Successfully rebutted an insurance-carrier engineer report (weather appendix) because a severe weather report contained a typo, misrepresenting a storm that did not exist. Large-loss claim.
Previously, said attorney utilized a $15 automated weather report. Wrong storm. Wrong weather radar. Wrong Conclusion.
- Hired by Adjuster: Insurance carrier claimed that a record-breaking hail storm was a result of a Hurricane, and thus the Hurricane deductible was in play. Said hurricane was over 1,000 miles away, and they generally do not produce record-breaking hail anyway. Claim was paid.
- Hired by Defense Attorney: During subrogation, I successfully rebutted a weather report by the Plaintiff which did not adequately examine wind speeds within a reasonable proximity to a subject property, or compare the said wind speeds to the widespread wind damage which occurred in the subject property's vicinity, which could reasonably be determined as far-stronger than the proposed winds, by utilizing the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Hundreds of thousands of dollar settled.
- Hired by Plaintiff Attorney: Successfully rebutted the insurance carrier's weather report because scientific methodologies were flawed, and no evidence was provided in the weather report to support the conclusions within. $2 Million paid.
Insurance carrier claimed that a record-breaking hail storm was a result of a Hurricane...said Hurricane was over 1,000 miles away.
In conclusion: Do you trust your weather information for an insurance claim?
Do you trust your weather information for an insurance claim?
Dan Schreiber is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and owner of STWX Strategic, a meteorology consulting firm specializing in forensic meteorology in the aviation and insurance claims industries. He has performed hundreds of weather investigations in over 20 states, and his testimony has never been stricken or excluded from a court of law.
To contact Dan, please click here.