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When a family decides collectively that the safest place for their aging loved one is a nursing home, they expect that the elderly person will be treated with a high level of care, and receive better care than the family members would have been able to provide on their own at home. Which is a significant part of the reason that a nursing home death that does not occur from natural causes can be so shocking and upsetting.

One of the most upsetting and terrible causes of death in nursing homes is bed rail asphyxiation, in which patients die or suffer serious injuries as a result of getting their heads, necks, or chests caught in the tight spaces that exist around bed rails. These types of deaths and injuries are unacceptable, and yet they continue to occur. If you are the family member of an individual who has been involved in a bed rail asphyxiation incident in a nursing home in Minnesota, our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at the office of the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC are here to help you.


As stated above, bed rail asphyxiation occurs when a patient’s head, neck, or check becomes trapped between the areas of space that exist between bars of the rail, or between the rail and the bed’s mattress or coverings. While this accident is possible when the nursing home patient is sleeping, it is most common in situations when a vulnerable and frail resident attempts to move from their bed without the assistance of a nursing home aid. This may happen because the resident needs something, wants to use the restroom, or due to myriad other factors that may contribute to the resident trying to leave their bed when a nursing home staff member is not available to help.


The FDA has identified seven different areas on hospital or other facility beds that can lead to entrapment. They are as follows:

  1. Within the Rail
  2. Under the Rail, Between the Rail Supports or Next to a
    Single Rail Support
  3. Between the Rail and the Mattress
  4. Under the Rail at the Ends of the Rail
  5. Between Split Bed Rails
  6. Between the End of the Rail and the Side Edge of the
    Head or Foot Board
  7. Between the Head or Foot Board and the End of
    the Mattress


A large percentage of bed rail asphyxiation incidents result in death, a figure that is far too high for comfort. This number is especially egregious considering that bed rail asphyxiation and deaths are completely preventable, and would not occur but for the negligence of one of the parties involved. Indeed, things that affect the risk of a bed rail asphyxiation incident, and things that could be done to prevent incidents include:

  • Defectively designed bed rails. There is a strong argument to be made that bed rails are defectively designed, and that spaces large enough to fit the head and chest should not exist. Manufacturers should rethink the design of these beds, as well as by whom the beds are intended to be used.
  • Neglectful nurses and nursing room staff members. Nursing home nurses and other staff members should pay more attention to residents’ needs, as it is often in times without nursing home staff member supervision that residents suffer the greatest degree of harm, and incidents like bed rail asphyxiation occur. With more patient supervision and nurses and staff members treating patients with a greater duty of care, such accidents could likely be avoided in their entirety.
  • Poor nursing home practices. It is not just the nurses and other staff members who have a duty to ensure that residents are all getting the attention they need; nursing homes should rethink their staff to patient ratios, as well as the appropriateness of bed rails for nursing home members. Further, practices and policies should be in place that help nursing home employees modify existing beds to combat risks and make them safer for patient use.

Even when bed rail asphyxiation accidents do not result in death, they can still have tragic consequences. Soft tissue injuries, bone fractures, and lack of oxygen leading to traumatic brain injury are all possible. Additionally, a bed rail asphyxiation incident can be psychologically traumatic for a resident as well, putting them at an increased risk of health complications and serving as a predictor for early death.


The death or serious injury of a loved one who is living within a nursing home is extremely upsetting. After such an event occurs, you may have questions about whether or not you have any legal rights, and whether or not civil charges can be brought forth against the liable party to hold them responsible for what has happened, and help to protect other future victims.

The attorneys of the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC are here to help you understand your legal rights, including the right to bring forth a claim to hold the negligent party liable for their actions. Potentially liable parties might include the bed rail manufacturer, the nursing home, or an individual nursing home employee depending upon the specifics of the case. Through a civil action, we can help you to seek damages to recompense you for your losses, and bring awareness to the dangers of the at-fault party’s actions.


A nursing home resident deserves to be well-cared for; serious accidents that result in tragic outcomes should simply not occur. If they do, you need an aggressive nursing home attorney on your side who can assist you in opening an investigation into the accident and determining its root cause, calculating the value of damages, and navigating the civil legal system. An attorney will also help you by speaking and negotiating with insurance adjusters, and helping you to understand to which different agencies nursing home abuse, injury, or death should be reported.

To schedule a free consultation with our law firm where we can talk about what has happened and review your options, please call us today or email us directly. We are committed to working hard for you, and will always prioritize your needs as our client.


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