Bed Rails in Nursing Homes: What you need to know

A 94-year-old woman died last weekend when her head became stuck between her mattress and a bed rail at a Pennsylvania nursing home. The county coroner ruled the cause of death as “accidental asphyxiation due to compression.” Sadly, this tragic event could have been prevented.

Experts have known about bed rail dangers for nearly two decades

Dr. Steve Miles, a bioethicist and medical professor at the University of Minnesota, first made federal regulators aware of bed rail-related deaths in 1995. Since that time, over 500 patients have died due to bed rails, with 155 deaths occurring from 2003-2012.

Despite repeated efforts by consumer groups to increase regulations, such as requiring warning labels, the FDA decided against it due to resistance from manufacturers. In 2006, the FDA issued voluntary guidelines for hospitals and nursing homes that included recommended size limits for openings and identified common entrapment risks.

While regulatory challenges remain, the FDA has a new website on bed rail safety that offers information for consumers, caregivers, health care providers and manufacturers.

Identify Risks

High-risk people include those with pre-existing conditions such as confusion, restlessness, lack of muscle control, or a combination of these factors. Additionally, people who are cognitively impaired from the use of

medication or from a medical condition, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, are at a higher risk of entrapment and injuries, including:

  • Strangling, suffocating, bodily injury or death when patients or part of their body are caught between rails or between the bed rails and mattress
  • More serious injuries from falls when patients climb over rails
  • Skin bruising, cuts, and scrapes
  • Inducing agitated behavior when bed rails are used as a restraint
  • Feeling isolated or unnecessarily restricted.
  • Preventing patients, who are able to get out of bed, from performing routine activities such as going to the bathroom or retrieving something from a closet

If your loved one is in a nursing home or other long-term health care facility, talk to their health care planning team to find out which options are best for them, remembering to reassess their needs on a regular basis.



Greene nursing home resident dies in bed mishap.” By Tom Fantaine, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 25, 2014.

After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails.” By Ron Nixon, The New York Times, November 25, 2012.

New Regulations for Helicopter Air Ambulances

Photo: Jared Davidson

After an accident, many victims rely on emergency services to deliver them safely to a hospital in order to receive life-saving medical treatment. While emergency medical transportation usually involves an ambulance, sometimes circumstances necessitate the use of a helicopter. Unfortunately, medevac crashes involving helicopters have been on the rise in recent years.

To combat this problem, the FAA recently issued new regulations that require helicopter operators, including air ambulances, to comply with stricter flight rules and procedures, including:

  • Additional training for pilots, with a mandatory instrument rating
  • Improved communications
  • Additional on-board safety equipment
  • Safety briefings or training for medical personnel
  • Implement pre-flight risk-analysis programs 

The rule, which goes into effect on April 20, 2014, represents the most significant improvements to helicopter safety in decades and responds to both government and industry concerns over helicopter operations.

The FAA said in a statement that it had examined helicopter air ambulance accidents from 1991 through 2010 and determined 62 accidents that claimed 125 lives could have been mitigated by the new rule. In 2008, five accidents claimed 21 lives, the deadliest year on record. From 2011 through 2013, there were seven air ambulance accidents resulting in 19 fatalities.

“This is a landmark rule for helicopter safety,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These improvements will better prepare pilots and better equip helicopters, ensuring a higher level of safety for passengers and crew.”

Like all aviation accidents, helicopter crashes can be caused by negligence, including pilot error, negligent maintenance, improper inspection techniques and defective equipment. Other problems can occur if there is not a complete crew of medical staff onboard or they lack proper training.



“Regulators Call for Tougher Helicopter Safety Rules” by Andy Pasztor and Doug Cameron, The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2014.

Black Box Warning for Testosterone Drugs

Testosterone medications linked to cardiac eventsAs we previously reported, multiple studies revealed a link between the use of Low-T medications and the risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack and death.

Now, consumer watch group Public Citizen has petitioned the FDA to add a Boxed Warning to all testosterone medications and require manufacturers to inform patients about the increased risks of heart attacks and other cardiac events. Also referred to as a “black box” warning, this type of labeling is only issued when a drug carries a significant risk of serious or life-threatening adverse effects.

In response to mounting concerns, last month the FDA announced that it would begin investigating prescription testosterone treatments, but that it “has not concluded that FDA-approved testosterone treatment increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, or death.”

That announcement did not sit well with the consumer advocate group.

“In the face of this accumulating evidence, this statement is reckless and is a betrayal of the FDA’s role as an agency in the U.S. Public Health Service,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder and senior adviser of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “It is quite clear that testosterone treatment increases the risks of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks.”

The group also called on the FDA to delay its decision date on approving Aveed, a new long-acting injectable testosterone product, which is scheduled for approval on February 28.

“Unless the FDA immediately begins to provide strong, adequate black-boxed warnings about the risks of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases, the continuing toll of heart attacks, many in people who are not even candidates for testosterone, will continue,” Wolfe said. “At the present rate of prescribing, almost 13,000 prescriptions a day are filled for testosterone products in this country. Each day of delay of the black box warning ensures much more exposure, too often for men who cannot benefit from the drug but will only be exposed to its risks.”

Low-T treatments

The testosterone market has grown by 90% since 2006, reaching $1.9 billion in 2011. Drugs used to treat low testosterone may come as a gel, patch or spray and are manufactured by several different pharmaceutical companies under different names, such as:

  • Androgel®
  • Fortesta®
  • Axiron®
  • Androderm®
  • Testim®

If you or a loved one took prescription testosterone and suffered a serious cardiac event, such as heart attack, stroke, blood clots, or death, you may have a claim. Contact an experienced attorney for a free case evaluation today.



Group Wants Heart Attack Warning on Testosterone” by Matthew Perrone, Associated Press/ABC News, February 25 2014.

What to Do If You’re Hit by a Commercial Truck

by Arthur Elk

Getting hit by a semi-truck or other commercial transport vehicle can be a devastating experience. Your whole life can change in a split second, and you might have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospital bills and repair costs. If you have been in an accident with a big rig and you believe the driver of the truck was at fault, your next step should be to hire an experienced car accident lawyer to help you collect monetary compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained.

Your lawsuit will proceed much like a normal car accident claim, but with one key difference. First, you will have to decide whom you should sue. You should figure out the identities of every person involved with the truck, including the driver and his or her employer. If the driver is a direct employee, you may be able to sue the employer as well under the doctrine of vicarious liability. As a car accident attorney can explain to you, vicarious liability states that an employer is liable for negligent or intentional acts committed by an employee while that employee is on the job.

However, vicarious liability does not extend to independent contractors. Independent contractors are workers who are not under the direct control of the employer. Determining whether or not an employee is an independent contractor depends on a number of factors, including who pays the contractor’s wages, how much control the employer has over the contractor’s work, and what type of contract is in place between the contractor and the employer.

A car accident attorney can help explain the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor in more detail.


NTSB Most Wanted List 2014

Are you one of this country’s ‘Most Wanted?’ If you’ve been using your cell phone or other portable electronic device while driving, then you’ve been engaging in distracted driving—one of the top priorities for the national Transportation Safety Board.

Each year, the NTSB releases its Most Wanted List, which represents their advocacy priorities. It is designed to highlight the most critical changes needed to reduce transportation accidents and save lives. This year, the agency is pursuing a number of goals, including the elimination of distractions in all modes of transportation—highway, aviation, railroad, marine, and even pipelines.

While this may seem like a daunting task, you can do your part by making the commitment to drive phone-free and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. Check out our infographic to learn more.

Distracted Driving Infographic

 According to the NTSB website, cell phones and other electronics are a “cultural epidemic.”

“With the expansive increase in portable electronic devices (PEDs), including cell phones, messaging and navigation systems, and entertainment devices, as well as the growing development of integrated technologies in vehicles, the NTSB is seeing a disturbing growth in the number of accidents due to distracted operators; often these accidents have deadly consequences. . . In short, operator distraction due to PED usage is a cultural epidemic that too often has tragic consequences.”

The complete NTSB Most Wanted List includes the following goals:

  • Address Unique Characteristics of Helicopter Operations
  • Advance Passenger Vessel Safety
  • Eliminate Distraction in Transportation
  • Eliminate Substance-Impaired Driving
  • Enhance Pipeline Safety
  • Improve Fire Safety in Transportation
  • General Aviation: Identify and Communicate Hazardous Weather
  • Implement Positive Train Control Systems
  • Promote Operational Safety in Rail Mass Transit
  • Strengthen Occupant Protection in Transportation





How to Lose Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

Ohio attorney Mindy Elk talks about how important it is to keep seeing your doctors even after starting your personal injury lawsuit.

Your personal injury lawsuit is centered on the harm suffered in your accident case. Within this medically driven case, documentation is vitally important.

Do not delay seeking medical care. Although you may feel okay at first, many injuries take time to develop. Even if you start to feel better, continue to meet with your doctors and therapists until the completing your medical treatment.

It’s never a good move to stop seeing your doctors in a personal injury case. As we prepare for trial or try to get a settlement based on your injuries, the validity of your injury may come into doubt if you don’t follow up with your doctor and adhere to all prescribed treatments. Jurors will question the motives of someone who stopped medical treatment and may assume they do not deserve full compensation for their injuries.

In order to justify the amounts demanded in your personal injury case, we must show how much your injuries have affected your life and family. We need to show what injuries you suffered, the costs you have incurred, how much pain you suffered and how long it’s going to take you to recover from the accident. Only when armed medical records proving such information are we able to move forward with your claim and seek the best possible result.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

Mindy Elk

That Was Close! – Near-Miss Incident Reporting

How many times have you marveled how lucky it was to avoid a close call while on the job? While narrowly escaping a workplace accident may just seem like a fortunate break, it’s actually an important opportunity. Taking the time to report a near-miss incident right now can prevent serious injuries in the future.

tree trimmerThe Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines near misses as “incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred.” Near misses also may be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free events and, or near collisions.

Reporting unsafe acts and conditions allow problems to be identified and corrected before an injury occurs. Behaviors or conditions that can cause a near-miss incident:

  • Failure to maintain or repair equipment
  • Removal of machine guards
  • Failure to keep walkways free of slip, trip or fall hazards
  • Inadequate training or personal protective equipment
  • Not following procedures or poor procedure enforcement 

According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, for every 15 near-miss incidents, there will be one injury. So, why do many near-accidents go unreported? Employees may resist reporting close calls for a number of reasons, including:

Did you know?

In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 154 fatal work injuries in Ohio. Of those, 52 resulted from transportation incidents, 35 from contact with objects and equipment, and 32 from falls, slips, and trips. Together these three major categories accounted for more than three-quarters of all workplace fatalities.

  • Fear of being blamed for mistakes
  • They don’t want to create more work
  • Nobody cares/Reporting won’t change anything
  • They don’t want to be labeled as a troublemaker
  • Peer pressure not to report
  • Long, complicated forms to complete 

Employers can encourage workers to participate in near miss reporting by creating non-punitive policies that reward employees who take the time to report. The process should be clear and simple, with all new employees receiving training as part of their orientation.

Remember, reporting a near-miss incident can help prevent serious injuries. The life you save by speaking up just might be your own.


Source: The value of near-miss reporting” by Joe Thatcher, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, 2004.


Nursing Home Found Negligent: Nurse did not perform CPR

A Minnesota nursing home has been found negligent in the death of a resident who died when a nurse failed to administer CPR.

According to a report issued by the Minnesota State Department of Health, the woman was admitted to the short-term rehabilitation unit of Oak Hills Living Center with the goal of returning home. The report also indicated that the patient’s Plan of Care included “CPR when necessary.” Unfortunately, the nurse claims she went into “panic mode” and that she was unaware of the CPR provisions in the resident’s plan of care until it was too late.

CPR Policies

In the past, some nursing homes had blanket no-CPR policies in place that prevented staff members – including nurses – from performing CPR. Instead, they would only call 911 and wait. On October of 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a memorandum stating that facilities must not establish and implement facility-wide no CPR-policies.

The CMS document states, “Any limits on how a facility may implement advance directives should be applied on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration a resident’s preferences, medical conditions, and cultural beliefs.”

Bill of Rights

In Ohio, like most states, residents of nursing homes and other residential care facilities have legal rights. You have the right to know what your health condition is, to decide how you will be cared for and to receive all the care you agreed to in your plan of care.

Residents are also entitled to

  • Have information
  • Make decisions
  • Have privacy
  • Have visitors
  • Be free from discrimination and restraints
  • A safe and clean living environment
  • Voice Complaints
  • Stay in the facility or, if they wish, receive services in another setting that meets their needs 

This is just a partial list of the many important rights afforded to nursing home patients. You can read the complete list of residents’ rights in Section 3721.13 of the Ohio Revised Code.

If you or someone you love was injured due to neglect or abuse while a resident of a nursing home or other residential care facility, contact an experienced nursing home attorney today.


Source:New Ulm nursing home cited in resident’s death; nurse claimed ‘panic mode’” by Robb Murray, Free Press of Mankato/, February 12, 2014.

Graco Recalls 3.7 Million Car Seats

In the fourth largest child car seat recall in history, the National Highway traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that Graco is voluntarily recalling 11 child car seats, affecting 3,773,379 units. However, according to the agency, an additional 1.8 million seats should also be recalled.

The NHTSA reports the buckles on these seats may become stuck and not unlatch, a problem Graco attributes to kids eating in the car. Graco spokesperson Ashley Mowrey explained that “food and dried liquids make some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position.”

According to the company’s website, the recall includes model year 2009 through July 2013 for following models:

Toddler Convertible Car Seats

  • Cozy Cline
  • Comfort Sport
  • Classic Ride 50
  • My Ride 65
  • My Ride 70
  • My Ride 65 with Safety Surround
  • Size4Me 70
  • My Size 70
  • Head Wise 70
  • Smart Seat 

Harnessed Booster Child Seats

  • Nautilus 3-in-1
  • Nautilus Elite
  • Argos 

The NHTSA has urged the company to recall its infant seats, but Graco has refused. The Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35, and Snugride Click Connect 40 all use the same buckle as the recalled models. However Graco officials feel there is no danger since infants in rear-facing seats do not spill food and drinks.

Replacement Buckles

Graco is offering a replacement harness buckle to affected consumers at no cost. Call 1-800-345-4109 or email the company at [email protected] for a new buckle. 

Play it safe

Graco feels that parents should continue using the seats until they get a replacement buckle. However, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “encourages parents and caregivers to consider acquiring an alternative car seat for transporting children until their Graco seat is fixed.”

If you must use the car seat, consider traveling with a seat belt cutting device. Any seat belt can become stuck, and in an accident, every second counts. Most belt cutters have a safety blade, allowing you to slice safely through the belt. Some models also include a window breaker, providing an emergency exit if your door becomes stuck and your window won’t work.

Seat belts and child safety seats save countless lives every year, but they can also be prone to manufacturing and design defects or malfunction at times. Taking a few simple steps to ensure safety may save a life and help protect the ones that you love.


Source:3.7 million Graco car seats recalled due to buckle issue” by Greg Botelho and Mike Ahlers, CNN, February 12, 2014.


Common Car Design Defects and the Danger They Pose to Drivers

By Arthur Elk

Photo by Mouring Kolhoff
Photo by Mouring Kolhoff

You might think that car accidents are only caused by a driver’s negligent or poor operation of his or her vehicle. However, many car accidents are caused by design or construction defects within the car itself. Car crashes kill more than 40,000 people each year, and a significant number of these are caused by defective automobiles.

A car accident lawyer can assist you in obtaining a refund, settlement payment, or other compensation if a defect in your vehicle causes a car accident. Some of the most common defects that lead to accidents or injuries include malfunctioning airbags, broken door latches that eject passengers during an accident, fire caused by defective gasoline tanks, rollovers caused by vehicles that are prone to rolling over, weak or defective roofs that cave in and crush passengers, and seat belt failure caused by defective seatbelts.

One example of a vehicle design defect that made national news is the Toyota Prius’s acceleration issues. The car accident attorney team working on behalf of Toyota customers reached a settlement of more than $1 billion with the Toyota car company, showing that design defects can have serious consequences for vehicle manufacturers.

In some instances, the vehicle may be built with the defect already present; as was the case with the Toyota Prius. Other times, the defect develops after the driver purchases the vehicle. Regardless of which scenario happens to you, you can obtain compensation for your injuries with the help of a qualified car accident attorney.