Note: Howard Altschule is the founder and CEO of Forensic Meteorology Consultants, one of the largest weather expert companies in the country. He holds the coveted “Certified Consulting Meteorologist” (CCM) designation from the American Mogenic Society (AMS), which is the highest certification a consulting meteorologist can receive. Howard and his team have been retained for more than 8,300 insurance claims and lawsuits across the country, have testified at least 128 times, and have been deposed 124 times.
Proving the date of loss in weather-related claims and lawsuits using inexpensive automated weather reports has recently become much more problematic, and professionals involved in these claims will need to adapt to the changes or risk having their claims and lawsuits fail. Most professionals who want to view the weather at a given location simply rely on an automated hail report from a provider or an automated wind report to show what happened historically, but Recent court decisions may change how these elements are used.
You never really know how reliable or accurate automated hail or wind reports are. If you order three different automated hail or wind reports, you will likely get three different wind speeds or hail sizes for the same property on the same loss date. The reason is simple: different companies use different algorithms to generate their automated reports in seconds, hence the different hail sizes or wind speeds. This calls into question how reliable these readings really are. There have been numerous claims and lawsuits that I have worked on, either for the insured or the insurer, where the hail size and wind speed on some automated reports were grossly inaccurate.
What is equally, if not more, worrying is the frequency with which Daubert motions are being filed to prohibit professionals from using some of these automated reports. And more and more projects are succeeding.
In a 2021 decision from the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, Hernandez v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation,1 the court ruled that the policyholder’s engineer “is not authorized to give expert testimony regarding wind speeds on the subject property on the alleged date of loss because the CoreLogic report it relies on and the methodology by which they calculate the data that ‘it contains cannot be verified, as required by the court under Daubert. , thus judging the testimony unreliable.»
In a stunning September 2023 Florida State District Court of Appeal decision, Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company v. Navlen,2 the appeals court granted Universal’s motion for a new trial after the jury previously ruled in favor of the policyholders. Prior to the initial trial, Universal objected to the admissibility of the insured’s expert, asserting, among other things, that the expert “stated that the wind speed was 60 to 70 mph, but indicated that these measurements were taken more than 17 miles from the property” and the expert based his opinion “on ‘reference’ data which does not ‘were not included in his report and based on an algorithm.“The Court of Appeal stated: “the expert relied on the “Benchmark” data to support his conclusion. The only attempt to establish the credibility of this data was the expert’s assertion that he “uses it all the time.” Furthermore, the court stated that “Unlike other cases with similar data, the expert here provided no independent support or corroboration of the reliability of his data.»
In the past, the use of Corelogic and Benchmark automated hail and wind reports was used exclusively to resolve claims and adjudicate lawsuits. Although both of these court decisions involve “wind-related” lawsuits, the same methodological issues exist for their automated hail reports. Imagine what would happen if and when Corelogic hail reports were excluded because they are based on proprietary algorithms and methodology.
Times are changing and public adjusters, insurance companies, engineers and attorneys must be prepared that their claims could collapse if the underlying weather reports are not authorized. This doesn’t even answer the question of whether automated reports are reliable. What you don’t know CAN hurt you.
There has never been a more important time to utilize qualified and experienced forensic meteorologists for many of your insurance claims and lawsuits. If they do their job correctly, you’ll find out what happened right there, whether it’s a specific disaster date or a multi-year hail or wind study. The results will help public adjusters and insurance companies make informed claims decisions and help attorneys decide whether to settle or defend a case. Engineers are increasingly turning to forensic meteorologists and using our information in their reports to avoid being exposed to risk. Daubert challenges or strike motions.
Not all weather claims warrant the services of a forensic meteorologist. However, when accurate weather information is important, especially in high-value claims, litigation or lawsuits, having accurate and reliable weather data from a forensic meteorologist can be crucial to the outcome of your case. case.
CEO, Certified Consulting Meteorologist