Archive for February, 2014

Elderly Fall Accidents Target of New Federal Bed Rail Guidelines

The dangers of adult bed rails to the elderly – particularly those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia – have been known for some time.

However, as The New York Times has reported, despite more than 150 deaths and and nearly 37,000 emergency room treatments from bed rail injuries, neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nor the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had done anything about it. Both agencies bickered over which hadregulatory authority, warring over whether the rails were medical devices (the FDA’s territory) or consumer goods (under the CPSC’s purview).

FDA Rules That Bed Rails Are Medical Devices

That is now changing. The Buffalo personal injury lawyers at The Law Offices of James Morris note the FDA has assumed oversight of the rails, deeming them medical devices. They are now working to organize a committee to update voluntary standards for manufacturers.

Bed rails, if you aren’t familiar, are the plastic or metal bars that are used on some hospital beds and in home care to help patients pull themselves up or help them get out of bed. They can also prevent people from falling out of bed.

However, they have proven to be especially dangerous to adults with dementia.

The FDA reports that of those adult bed rail deaths reported over the last decade, most occurred at home. However, 25 happened at nursing homes, 15 at assisted living centers, and 3 at hospice facilities.

How Bed Rails Can Be Dangerous

The most common causes of death or injury related to bed rails were falls and entrapment.

In cases of entrapment, victims were reportedly stuck, wedged, caught or trapped between the mattress and the rail bars or between the toilet and the rail. In some cases, victims were stuck between the floor and the rail or the headboard and the rail. Most commonly, it was the head and/or neck that was caught. Other injuries were seen to the lower leg and foot, as well as to numerous scrapes and cuts and sometimes broken bones.

Falls, on the other hand, generally happened when a person fell off the rail, climbed over it or fell because the rail wasn’t properly raised.

The new FDA committee will be steered by ASTM International, which is responsible for developing and publishing voluntary technical standards for a large array of products.

It remains to be seen whether a new set of updated voluntary standards for the product will have much impact. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., has been an outspoken advocate for reform with regard to adult bed rails. He called the response “tepid,” saying that voluntary standards were implemented before, and people have continued to suffer injury and death. He’s skeptical that this effort will be different.

The FDA first received warning of numerous deaths involving the devices back in 1995. Four years later, the agency formed a working group that involved manufacturers, patient advocates and researchers. At the time, the FDA mulled whether to require warning labels, but decided against that after receiving heavy push back from manufacturers.

Voluntary guidelines were implemented back in 2006, directing nursing homes and hospitals on safe use. However, there have been more than a half dozen deaths since then.

While we await new guidelines, it is recommended before installation that caregivers and nursing homes understand that not all bed rails are interchangeable. Bear in mind, they are not to be used as restraint devices, but rather to aid getting in and out of bed and preventing falls.

Anyone whose loved one has suffered a bed-rail-related injury in New York should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact the Law Offices of James Morris in Buffalo today for a free consultation. Call 800-477-9044 or visit www.jamesmorrislaw.com. Attorney advertising.


Buffalo Teen Car Accident Risks on the Rise

One 15-year-old was killed and her 13-year-old sister critically injured recently in a New York car accident, when their 19-year-old brother reportedly struck another vehicle while making a U-turn.

After the initial hit, investigators say the older teen struck several parking meters and then a utility pole. The youngest of the three was ejected. The 15-year-old was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

At The Law Offices of James Morris, our Buffalo car accident lawyers haveseen far too many cases where young lives were lost prematurely due to negligence on the roads. We don’t yet know the cause of this crash – that’s still under investigation. What we do know is that with prom and graduation right around the corner, it’s imperative that parents initiate a conversation with their teens about safe driving.

Other Teens Remain a Significant Distraction for Young Drivers

One of the biggest issues for teens to overcome is distraction. One of the greatest distractions? Other teens.

When a young driver has a group of peers in the vehicle, the risk of a crash rises with each additional passenger. In fact, most teens who are killed in auto accidents are passengers in vehicles driven by other teens, according to the New York State Department of Health.  This is particularly relevant as we approach spring, with formal dances and graduation parties galore. Arranging for a professional driver (a limousine for formal event, maybe a taxi for informal events) may alleviate your fears regarding this issue.

Bear in mind too that as of February 2010, it’s been illegal in New York State for a junior licensed driver to have more than one passenger under the age of 21 in his or her vehicle absent a parent, guardian or driving instructor.

As a parent, you may consider extending that rule until your child reaches the age of 18.

The other biggest distraction, of course, is the cell phone. Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development indicate that teens who text and drive are nearly four times as likely to crash as a teen who isn’t texting. Dialing a phone was even worse, making teens 8.3 times more likely to crash than peers who weren’t dialing. (Compare that to experienced drivers, whose risk was 2.5 times greater than their non-dialing counterparts.)

Those same researchers, whose work was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, learned that teens start out very cautious when they begin to drive. However, as time passes, they start to engage in riskier and riskier behaviors, like texting, talking to passengers and eating. Specifically, during the first six months of having a license, teens were far less likely than experienced drivers to engage in secondary tasks. However, between months 7 and 15 of having a license, teen drivers matched their older counterparts in secondary tasks. During months 16 through 18, they had exceeded more experienced drivers in distractions.

In other words, their sense of confidence behind the wheel quickly becomes inflated.

New York has one of the toughest cell phone laws on the books, banning all drivers – not just teens –  from using handheld phones and texting behind the wheel.

The other major issue for teen drivers, particularly around prom and graduation, is drinking. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2011, 32 percent of drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were killed in crashes had been drinking.

Parents should make sure their teens understand that there will  be zero tolerance for such actions, but also that your teen can call you without retribution to come get him or her and avoid either driving drunk or riding with a drunk driver.

Contact the Law Offices of James Morris in Buffalo today for a free consultation. Call 800-477-9044 or visit www.jamesmorrislaw.comAttorney advertising.