By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
The recovery can take months and even years. Some victims of slip and fall injuries never recover. In circumstances where investigations are vital to the outcome of legal claims, the atmospheric conditions surrounding accidents and injuries require expert witness testimony.
Of course, if you look out the window or step outside you already know that snow is falling. You can follow @MikeNelson247 on Twitter for a personable rundown on what the storm is doing using satellite radar analysis, get bird feeder tips and see cute dog photos. Broadcaster and Denver 7 chief meteorologist, Mike Nelson also does something he describes as, "forecasting in reverse."
Forensic meteorology was not what Nelson aspired to do as a child. “I liked watching storms and anticipating what would happen next with the sky,” explains Nelson. “You get more experience and realize how weather effects everybody.”
See also: Apps for private investigators - Dark sky weather prediction software's unique "time machine" feature.
Looking back now, thirty of the forty years he has spent reporting on weather have also included providing forensic meteorology consultations and expert witness testimony.
I met Mike last week at a Denver Press Club event. He was guest bartending to benefit the Colorado nonprofit animal adoption, 501(c)3, Pawsco. We chatted about how he assists personal injury law firms with everything from slip and fall cases to fire investigations. Elucidating how atmospheric conditions lead to lighting strike cases and falls is such a niche industry that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't even provide it's own listing but instead includes it in under their Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)'s "Atmospheric Scientist, Including Meteorologist" category, defining it as, "use historical weather data to reconstruct the weather conditions for a specific location and time. They investigate what role weather played in unusual events such as traffic accidents and fires. Forensic meteorologists may be called as experts to testify in court."
For Nelson, testifying in court isn't always necessary. “I’m willing to go and testify” he says but “sometimes it doesn’t get to that level.”
“Weather effects everything we do. If you are analyzing a case it may be important to know the atmospheric conditions” he says when asked what advice he has for private investigators.It can also be applicable when thinking about a crime and what the weather conditions were that could have a huge impact on the evidence. "There are people out there that can help you with that,” he says when asked what advice he'd give Colorado private investigators.
"Doing forensic work we can try to help people recover something they lost" he says, reiterating that the difference between forecasting and reconstructing the past is that "one is moving forward in time and one is figuring out weather conditions months or years earlier."
This is more nuanced than simply looking up a report detailing what the weather was the day of the accident. Slip and falls, for example, have many hidden complexities. You can say, “well the sun was out how can there be ice. If a drainpipe was melting you could have an icy patch there."
If it was a sunny day then the person who fell may have been less concerned about ice at the time of the injury. If, by contrast, it is a snowy day, they would have been more careful. "But if it’s a sunny day you’re looking around you're not looking down at the ground" Nelson says.
Sign-up for email alerts to follow the latest developments in the world of private investigators.