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Elderly Bed Rail Accidents

Elderly Bed Rail Accidents

While adult bed rails are intended to be a safety product, they can cause injury or death when used incorrectly. Elderly, sick, or frail individuals are most likely to be affected.

Between 1985 and January 1, 2009, 480 deaths and 138 nonfatal injuries caused by bed rails were reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Although these incidents are relatively rare, they can be physically and emotionally devastating. Often, they occur when a family has entrusted a medical or long-term care facility with their loved one.

If your family has been impacted by a bed rail accident in California, the Peck Law Group’s experienced, results-driven attorneys can help you seek compensation. Reach out today for your free case evaluation.

Bed Rail Basics

Adult bed rails can be split into two categories:

  1. Hospital bed rails are medical devices that are designed specifically as part of a hospital bed or as a medical bed attachment. These are the safest type of bed rail but should still be used with caution.
  2. Portable bed rails used for adults that can be purchased without a prescription. This includes any product such as side rails, handles, grab bars, assist bars or other attachments not manufactured for medical or hospital beds. They are most likely to be used in nursing home, assisted living, long-term care, or home care settings.

Most Common Types of Bed Rail Injuries


Most bed rail injuries and deaths are caused by entrapment when a patient becomes lodged between the rail and the mattress or twisted in bedding. The patient may be strangled, asphyxiated, or suffocated.

For example, in 2022, the CPSC warned the public to immediately stop using 285,000 commercial adult portable bed rails manufactured by Mobility Transfer Systems Inc. and Metal Tubing USA Inc. The deaths of at least three elderly people were linked to the bed rails.

Patients who are elderly, frail, confused, agitated or on medication are most vulnerable to entrapment. Risk also increases when there are gaps between the rail and the mattress, or when rails are mixed and matched with beds or mattresses they were not designed for. This can occur in nursing homes, where beds are dissembled, moved and reassembled often.


Falls are most likely to occur with confused or disoriented patients. They may try to climb or roll over the rails or hurt themselves trying to get up from bed without assistance. Falls can lead to broken bones, bruises, cuts, scrapes, head injury or even death. 

Judge's gavel on top of a book of California bed rail laws.

Laws and Regulations

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offer recommendations on bed rail safety, but laws vary by state. The California Department of Social Services licenses and monitors nursing homes, adult care facilities and other types of community care providers.

In residential care facilities for the elderly, California’s Code of Regulations allows the use of bed rail attachments that extend half the length of the bed from the head. It specifically prohibits the use of portable bed rails that extend the entire length of the bed. However, full-length rails may be used for hospice patients if specified in a care plan.  

What to Do if Your Loved One Was Injured or Died Due to a Bed Rail Injury

Each bed rail injury or death is unique, and the Peck Law Group can help you navigate your specific case. Call 866-999-9085 or fill out this form for a free case evaluation.   

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorney Steven Peck

About the Author

Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.

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