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Is It Against the Law to Have Bed Rails in a Nursing Home?

Bed rails are commonly used in nursing homes to prevent residents from falling out of bed, provide support for movement, and assist with transfers. However, their use is subject to specific regulations and guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. At The Law Offices of John M. McCabe, we understand the complexities surrounding the use of bed rails in nursing homes and are here to provide clarity on whether their use is legal and under what conditions.

Is It Against the Law to Have Bed Rails in a Nursing Home?

No, it is not against the law to have bed rails in a nursing home.

However, their use is subject to strict regulations and guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. Here's a concise overview of the conditions under which bed rails can be used legally in nursing homes:

Federal Regulations and Guidelines

The use of bed rails in nursing homes is regulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) under federal guidelines. These regulations protect residents from potential harm and ensure that bed rails are used appropriately.

Assessment and Individualized Care Plans

  • Requirement: Nursing homes must comprehensively assess each resident to determine if bed rails are necessary and appropriate. This assessment should consider the resident's medical condition, mobility, cognitive status, and risk of injury from falls.
  • Care Plan: Based on the assessment, an individualized care plan should be developed detailing the need for bed rails and any potential risks associated with their use.

Informed Consent

Nursing homes must obtain informed consent from the resident or their legal representative before installing bed rails. This involves explaining the benefits, risks, and alternatives to bed rails, ensuring that the resident or their representative understands and agrees to their use.

Safety and Maintenance

  • Requirement: Bed rails must be properly installed, maintained, and regularly inspected to ensure they are safe and secure. Nursing homes should follow manufacturer guidelines and industry standards for installation and maintenance.
  • Training: Staff should be trained on the correct use and potential risks of bed rails, including how to monitor residents for any signs of injury or distress.

Common Injuries Sustained by Bed Rails in Nursing Homes

Is It Against the Law to Have Bed Rails in a Nursing Home?

Bed rails are intended to protect nursing home residents by preventing falls and providing support for movement and transfers. However, improper use or maintenance of bed rails can lead to serious injuries, posing significant risks to the very individuals they are meant to protect. Here are the types of injuries that can be sustained from bed rails

Entrapment Injuries

Residents can become trapped between the mattress and the bed rail, or within the components of the bed rail itself. This can lead to suffocation, asphyxiation, and severe physical injuries. Signs include bruising, cuts, or distress and unusual positioning in bed.

Bruises and Cuts

Physical contact with bed rails can cause bruises and cuts, particularly in frail or weak residents. These injuries may seem minor but can lead to more serious complications, such as infections, especially in residents with compromised health. Look for unexplained bruises or cuts, particularly on arms and legs.

Fractures and Broken Bones

Falls from attempting to climb over bed rails or forceful contact with the rails can result in fractures or broken bones. These injuries can significantly impact a resident's mobility and overall health, leading to prolonged recovery periods and additional medical complications. Be alert to complaints of pain, swelling, or visible deformities in limbs.


If a resident’s neck becomes caught between the bed rail and the mattress or other parts of the bed, it can lead to strangulation, which is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Watch for difficulty breathing, red marks around the neck, or any signs of distress.


Bed rails intended to prevent falls can sometimes cause them if residents attempt to climb over the rails. Falls from bed rails can result in serious injuries, including head trauma, spinal injuries, and fractures. Monitor for any attempts by residents to climb over bed rails and ensure proper supervision.

How To PreventvBed Rail Injuries

Proper Assessment and Use

  • Nursing homes should conduct thorough assessments to determine if bed rails are necessary for each resident, considering their health, mobility, and cognitive status.
  • Bed rails should only be used when absolutely necessary and should be included in the resident’s individualized care plan.

Training and Supervision

  • Staff should receive proper training on the safe use of bed rails and the potential risks involved.
  • Regular supervision of residents using bed rails can help prevent attempts to climb over the rails or become entrapped.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

  • Bed rails should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are securely installed and in good working condition.
  • Nursing homes should follow manufacturer guidelines and industry standards for the installation and maintenance of bed rails.

Alternatives to Bed Rails

When possible, consider alternatives to bed rails, such as lower beds, floor mats, and increased staff supervision to prevent falls without the associated risks of bed rails.

What To Do If You or a Loved One Has Been Injured By Bed Rails

If you or a loved one has been injured by bed rails in a nursing home, it is crucial to take immediate and appropriate actions to ensure safety and seek justice. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Ensure that the injured person receives prompt medical care. This is essential to treat any injuries and to document the extent of harm caused by the bed rails.

2. Document the Incident

  • Take Photos: Photograph the injuries, the bed rails, and the surrounding area. Visual evidence can be critical in proving the cause and severity of the injuries.
  • Record Details: Write down a detailed account of the incident, including the date, time, and circumstances of the injury. Include any witness statements if available.

3. Report the Incident

  • Notify the Nursing Home: Inform the nursing home administration about the injury. Request that they document the incident in their records.
  • Contact Regulatory Agencies: File a complaint with state regulatory agencies, such as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, to ensure the incident is investigated.

4. Preserve Evidence

  • Medical Records: Keep all medical records related to the injury, including treatment plans, doctor’s notes, and hospital bills.
  • Bed Rail Maintenance Records: Request records from the nursing home regarding the maintenance and inspection of the bed rails.

5. Consult with a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

  • Seek Legal Advice: An experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you understand your legal options and guide you through the process of filing a claim.
  • Case Evaluation: The attorney will evaluate your case, gather evidence, and advise you on the best course of action to seek compensation for the injuries sustained.

6. File a Legal Claim

  • Negligence or Abuse: Your personal injury attorney will help you file a legal claim against the nursing home for negligence or abuse, aiming to hold the responsible parties accountable.
  • Compensation: Pursue compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other related damages.

Compensation You May Be Entitled To For Bed Rail Injuries

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries from bed rails in a nursing home, you may be entitled to various forms of compensation. Pursuing a legal claim can help cover the costs associated with the injury and provide justice for the harm suffered. Here’s an overview of the types of compensation you may be entitled to:

Medical Expenses

  • Immediate Medical Costs: Compensation for emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medications, and other immediate medical treatments required due to the injury.
  • Ongoing Medical Care: Coverage for long-term care, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and any other ongoing medical needs resulting from the injury.
  • Future Medical Expenses: Anticipated future medical costs related to the injury, including potential surgeries or long-term treatment plans.

Pain and Suffering

  • Physical Pain: Compensation for the physical pain endured as a result of the injury, which can vary based on the severity and duration of the pain.
  • Emotional Distress: Damages for emotional suffering, including anxiety, depression, and trauma experienced due to the injury and its aftermath.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

  • Lifestyle Impact: Compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life, if the injury has significantly impacted the victim’s ability to participate in activities and hobbies they once enjoyed.

Disability and Disfigurement

  • Permanent Disability: Compensation for any permanent disability resulting from the injury, which can affect the victim’s quality of life and ability to perform daily activities.
  • Disfigurement: Damages for any scarring or disfigurement caused by the injury, impacting the victim’s physical appearance and self-esteem.

Relocation Expenses

  • Moving Costs: If the injury necessitates moving the resident to a different facility or home environment, compensation may cover the costs associated with relocation.
  • Alternative Care Costs: Coverage for any additional costs related to securing a safer and more suitable care environment for the injured individual.

Punitive Damages

  • Gross Negligence: In cases where the nursing home’s actions were particularly reckless or egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoers and deter similar behavior in the future.

Legal Fees and Costs

  • Attorney Fees: Compensation to cover the cost of hiring an attorney to pursue the legal claim.
  • Court Costs: Coverage for any court fees and related expenses incurred during the legal process.

How a Nursing Home Injury Lawyer Can Help

At The Law Offices of John M. McCabe, we understand nursing home injury cases' complexities and emotional challenges. Our dedicated team is here to support you and your loved ones every step of the way. Here’s how we can help:

Thorough Investigation

We conduct a detailed investigation into the circumstances surrounding the injury. This includes gathering evidence, reviewing medical records, interviewing witnesses, and examining the nursing home's maintenance practices. Our goal is to build a strong case that demonstrates negligence or misconduct.

Legal Experience and Advocacy

Our experienced attorneys are well-versed in nursing home regulations and elder abuse laws. We will advocate for your loved one’s rights, representing their best interests in negotiations and court proceedings. Our commitment is to ensure responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.

Securing Compensation

We strive to secure the maximum compensation for your loved one’s injuries. This includes medical expenses, pain and suffering, and related damages. We understand the financial burdens that can arise from such incidents and work tirelessly to alleviate them.

Compassionate Support

We provide compassionate support and guidance throughout the legal process. We know that dealing with a nursing home injury can be overwhelming, and we are here to answer your questions, address your concerns, and ensure that you feel informed and empowered.

Prevention of Future Harm

We aim to prevent future harm to other residents by holding negligent parties accountable. Your case can bring attention to systemic issues within the nursing home, prompting necessary changes and improvements in care standards.

Protect Your Loved One's Rights Today

If your loved one has been injured due to a bed rail accident in a nursing home, it’s crucial to take action. Contact The Law Offices of John M. McCabe today for a consultation. Our experienced legal team is dedicated to seeking justice and ensuring that your loved one receives the care and respect they deserve. Let us help you hold the responsible parties accountable and secure the compensation needed for recovery and protection.


It would be our pleasure to help. We offer free initial consultations for any of your legal needs.
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