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TIMING IS EVERYTHING

A Tennessee man filed a claim with his insurance company to cover damages to a building he owned. He claimed that the damage took place during a severe thunderstorm. An adjustor came out to take a look at the building and concluded that there was damage which appeared to have been caused by the weather. Part of the roof was missing and damage inside of the building was extensive. The man received a check for just under $97,000. Shortly thereafter the case was flagged for investigation by the insurance company’s subrogation unit. What prompted the investigation was the length of time that the building had been insured prior to the claim being made: three weeks.

The investigator contacted COMPUWEATHER. The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case prepared an analysis of the weather on the day that the building owner stated the storm did its damage. Thunderstorms had occurred on that day, but they were not particularly strong or severe. Doppler radar images, as well as observations from nearby airports, showed that top winds with the storms were only 38 miles per hour. Hardly enough wind to tear part of a roof off. The meteorologist then began to look further back in time, in order to find any occurrences of severe weather during the previous two months. His analysis determined that six weeks prior to the alleged date of the storm damage, severe weather had occurred. On that day, thunderstorms produced straight-line winds of 72 miles per hour along with golf-ball sized hail and torrential downpours of rain.

Armed with this information, the insurance investigator began to look at other claims which had been made in that part of the state. A number of claims had been paid after the event six weeks prior. The investigator spoke with several home and business owners in the area that had filed those claims. What he learned was that the man who made the claim about the damaged building did so after speaking to them. He had purchased the building after the storm damage had occurred. He became keenly interested in the repair work that was occurring on nearby homes and buildings, and found out from the owners about the severe weather which had caused the damage.

The building owner was eventually found guilty of fraud and was forced to pay back the insurance company. He didn’t even own the building at the time that the damage actually took place.