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Use of Forensic Meteorologists Popular in Personal Injury Cases and Others

Meteorologists are not just predicting the weather anymore; they are also helping attorneys reconstruct accident and crime scenes by repainting weather conditions. Forensic meteorologists assist personal injury attorneys, insurance companies and even criminal attorneys by detailing a particular day's weather to help win a case.

The weather is involved in more legal cases than you would think, and therefore the expertise of a meteorologist is useful. Weather conditions can be crucial in slip-and-fall cases that occur outside. The details of the weather are normally described to show whether or not a party in the case was responsible for the conditions that created the fall. For example, a property owner may be accused of negligence for failing to timely clear an icy or snowy sidewalk or parking lot. Testimony or a deposition of a forensic meteorologist can provide information on when there was precipitation, the amount and the temperature.

Temperature can also be used to determine time of death in homicide cases, so sometimes a forensic meteorologist can feel like they are playing the role of a detective. Temperature plays a role in other ways too. One forensic meteorologist said he had to testify to the temperature of a particular night in a shooting case. Witnesses in the case claimed they were sipping ice tea on an outside porch, but the forensic meteorologist discredited the testimony by explaining temperatures were in the 40s at the time. In a murder case, a forensic meteorologist analyzed whether dew had collected on the defendant's automobile. The lack of dew on the defendant's car helped to show the defendant's alibi was not candid.

In car accident cases that occur around sunrise and sunset, forensic meteorologists are used to determine whether a driver should have seen an object or not. Forensic meteorologists are even used in divorce cases. A woman claimed her husband's belongings were ruined by rain after she threw them out. A forensic meteorologist showed it had not rained during the time frame and that the woman had purposefully hosed the belongings instead. Whether it is keeping people honest or determining a standard of care, forensic meteorologists seem to have found a place in the legal process.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Forensic Meteorologists Look Back, Not to Future," Jennifer Reeger, 11/12/10

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