Meteorology has an impact on every aspect in our lives. Weather gives aid to creation of life on earth, but it also has the capability of destruction. A failure of structure or vehicle, mechanical malfunction in a machine unit, or a personal injury event warrants scrutinizing the role weather may have played or not played in the event.

“Was the weather to blame here?” – It is a question that, often, cannot be answered with immediate confidence.

“The elements” can be the first or the LAST factor people expect – we have witnessed a recent event where guests of a Las Vegas hotel were being burned as they lounged pool-side due to the sun reflecting through the building’s all glass framework. Yes, this is a “structural design failure” manifested by weather!

At Forensic & Failure Analysis, we are equipped to work for and with you to determine if weather influenced the circumstances or has an impact on your claim or case.  

Research And Data Collection Process

Weather events must be considered a possible cause for equipment failure, building and structural damage, or personal injury. Forensic & Failure Analysis has a knowledgeable team of forensic experts that follow specific, repeatable processes to properly determine if weather caused damage or injury. Our forensic experts research and gather all pertinent weather information for the specific area and specific time where the damage or injury occurred.

This process may also include performing experiments and in-depth testing to help recreate or produce the same outcome. Our forensic investigative team travels to the site of the damage to collect evidence and data to get the most reliable results possible. We also have the capability to conduct experiments and testing at our facility lab, provide evidence storage services, and perform x-ray analysis as part of an investigation as well.

Even “tell-tale signs” of severe weather need to be thoroughly examined when determining causation of damage or failure.

Las Vegas’s Vdara Hotel – perpetrator of severe burns on poolside guests due to the sun’s reflection through the buildings glass structure.

Tools Of The Trade

Our forensic experts utilize a wide range of research and data available including weather information recorded by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), StrikeNet™ – a lightning strike tracking application, tools such as anemometers, and partnering with other investigators, engineers, or emergency services to gain a complete understanding of the weather event in question.

Stories From The Field, In The Eye of The Storm

At Forensic & Failure Analysis, we have worked on a wide variety of weather-caused claims and cases. Some of the most common examples of weather-related damage, failure, or injury claims we investigate are:

  • Building or structural failures
  • Power surges and lightning strikes
  • Fires and explosions
  • Roof and façade damage
  • Erosion damage

Our goal in every investigation is to trace back to the original cause of damage or injury and recreate the course of action from there.

For example, in a power surge case that caused a fire, our investigators could determine if a lightning strike caused a power surge by hitting a power line or a building by analyzing weather records for that geographic area.

In the event of a structural collapse or building damage, we would investigate the structure where the fire occurred to determine if weather conditions were solely responsible for the damage and determine what is long-term, “normal wear” versus damage caused by catastrophic weather impact.

Often residential or commercial roof damage is reported as a claim to an insurance company.  Was it hail?  Was it high winds? Or was it long term neglect?

FFA has the experts that can unravel the details to determine the true cause of the loss.

Shedding Light On A Complex Case

Recalling the ‘sun-enhanced’ structural failures of the Vegas hotels we mentioned earlier, here is a unique example from our archives of determining the weather as the culprit in case.

In 2020, Forensic & Failure Analysis consulted for an insurance company to determine the cause of a customer’s claim of home damage. The customer reported unusual deformation of their house siding, similar to “melt damage.” No fires or other heat sources were reported to have impinged upon the siding.  Our investigative expert performed an in-depth analysis of the home condition, analyzed local weather patterns, and created an experiment to test our findings. 

Our forensic expert was able to create an on-scene experiment that conclusively proved the damage to the customer’s home siding was caused by the sun’s solar light reflecting off a neighbor’s infrared reflective windows. This finding was only possible by our forensic team’s deep understanding of optics, astronomy, materials science, and orienteering (i.e., map and compass techniques).  Science and technology, both old and new, came together to solve this case.

“Good fences make good neighbors” goes the old saying; Infrared reflective windows… perhaps not so much!

With our multidisciplinary knowledge, resources, and access to technology, Forensic & Failure Analysis can assess and efficiently determine the underlying cause of failure, accident, or injury in an effort to bring our clients’ cases to a favorable conclusion. Contact Forensic & Failure Analysis to learn more about our capabilities, or learn more about our teams’ distinct, robust specialties here.