From Farm to Marines to Law School – Don Beattie Builds Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Law Firm with Integrity
Don Beattie was born and raised twenty miles east of Des Moines on a grain and livestock farm. He continued to work on his family’s farm while attending Simpson College, graduating in 1970. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps that October, where he entered the Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va. After receiving his commission as an officer Don went thru flight school and earned his Naval Flight Officer wings. Don began flying an F-4 Phantom as the radar intercept better known as Goose, thanks to the hit movie, Top Gun. And yes, Don also went through the Top Gun program. He then joined Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, Death Rattlers. His “Death Rattlers” fighter squadron was also the only non-Air Force squadron assigned to protect NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Don had wanted to be a personal injury lawyer from the time he was in 6th grade when he realized it was the best way to help injured people. Thus, after completing his service, he entered the Drake University Law School, then joined an area law firm where he practiced personal injury law for 19 years. He founded Beattie Law Firm in 1998. Throughout Don’s narrative, from family farmhand to “goose” to personal injury lawyer, trust has remained the dominant theme.
“I have always had a little bit of chip on my shoulder and wanted to take on the man,” says Don. “When you represent someone in personal injury it is you against the big insurance, manufacturing, chemical, gas and oil companies, which is why I have always practiced personal injury law. The insurance giants always try to undercut the injured person, but we know what we are doing.”
Don explains the reason that personal injury lawyers have received such a bad reputation as “ambulance chasers” is directly due to the insurance companies’ marketing efforts. “We are really “people helpers,” whether someone needs assistance after an accident, in a workman’s comp case, a wrongful death, or in some other aspect of the law.”
Large law firms are known for settling early to maintain client volume, Don and his law partner, Nile Hicks, believe this “churn and burn” style of handling cases does not serve the clients well. Instead, they try to give each client and case a sincere personal touch. Nile and Don give out their personal phone numbers to each client, understanding that pressing questions and concerns do not keep office hours, especially for someone who is worried about his or her current and future health, work future and rising medical costs. Not surprisingly, most of Beattie Law Firm’s clients come from referrals. The only law firm to be recognized among the KCCI Gr8 Professionals, Beattie lawyers pride themselves on treating clients as friends, even after their case settles.
“A lot of our time is spent listening to our clients discuss their problems after an accident and determining how we can help them fix these challenges through the legal process,” adds Nile, who joined Beattie Law Firm as a law clerk in 2005. Don and Nile’s father, who were friends and sports teammates at Simpson College, worked together on a major gas explosion case many years ago, laying the groundwork for Don’s successful gas explosion litigation practice. Nile became Don’s partner seven years ago. “In addition to preparing for litigation and dealing with the insurance companies and their lawyers, we focus on all related items for our clients like making sure health insurance covers medical bills and their reimbursement rights, working through the worker’s compensation process, or dealing with bill collectors. We spend a lot of time working on behalf of our clients with state and federal agencies on many cases, something that goes a long way in fully representing our clients.”
Personal injury victims face an onslaught of challenges in addition to physical and emotional distress. Rising medical bills are one persistent concern, but there are also countless forms to complete, potential trial documents to prepare, temporary and permanent vehicle replacement to manage. Insurance companies are poised to capitalize on missteps at every step, historically more concerned about shareholder profits than the wellbeing of their client.
Don puts it succinctly. “The biggest thing for me is that I tell a new client ‘I will keep you fully informed and answer every question. If you have a question and you don’t ask, then I failed you. So, please ask the questions.’”
Though too modest to advertise his own legal celebrity, Don is considered the national leader in representing victims in propane gas explosions, says Nile. “Nobody’s record matches Don’s in going against big businesses and insurance companies in gas explosion cases. Over the last 35 years, he has represented victims in 30 different states in well over 100 cases.”
Don’s reputation as the premier litigator in gas explosion cases speaks to his determination and moral rectitude, characteristics he developed early on the farm and in the Marines. “I was contacted 35 years ago by an out-of-state lawyer representing a 7-year old little boy who was burned in a gas explosion. I never understood why my clients didn’t detect the propane’s warning odor, but I didn’t dwell on it. A year later Nile’s father called me to represent other clients who were severely burned. These clients didn’t smell the odor either, so I knew there was something more to it. I researched and discovered that the advertised warning odor gas was actually worthless. Our clients won a $5 million verdict from a small Iowa town jury against a major propane appliance manufacturer, the first jury verdict of this type in American history.”
Since this landmark achievement, Don and Nile have won many trials in Iowa and beyond, yet they never waver in providing personal service to every client, regardless of the size of the settlement or verdict. They have taken on all different types of personal injury cases, including automobile accidents, agricultural injuries, workplace injuries, and insurance bad faith litigation. Beattie Law Firm receives no payments prior to a successful settlement. They also pay for the cost of litigation which can reach levels in excess of $300,000.
The celebrated Heemstra-Lyon trial was one such case. They represented a widow whose farmer husband was shot and killed by another farmer over a land dispute. Though it took ten years of litigation, Beattie Law eventually recovered nearly $8 million for the family.
Both Don and Nile take great pride in their position as KCCI Gr8 Professionals, a recognition for their professional and public service. In addition to guest lecturing about legal issues, Nile, a University of Iowa Law School graduate, also sits on the Waukee Betterment Foundation. Don has established scholarships at Simpson College and Drake University Law School. Beattie Law Firm also contributes each year to local youth and charitable organizations.
Beattie Law’s charitable work and personal injury law complement each other to form a very different image than that of greedy ambulance chasers. Don Beattie takes his integrity seriously, having served on the Iowa Supreme Court Ethics Committee, a body that determines if peers have committed ethical infractions and subsequent penalties for these violations. Whether returning from college to harvest grain or running radar operations inside an F-4 Phantom fighter jet, Don’s honest and hard work promises that his law firm is always prepared to help victims receive exactly what they deserve. Visit the Beattie Law Firm website to learn more.