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Why you don't hear more about Illinois bedrail injuries

Poorly designed or manufactured products that harm children make Illinois headlines quickly. Many elderly adults are just as vulnerable to defective product injuries as children, although society tends to concentrate more heavily on victims with potentially long futures.

Safety rails are supposed to keep elderly people from accidentally rolling out of bed. The products aren't always as safe as they're advertised to be, especially for patients struggling with physical and mental limitations. While child product makers are carefully watched by the U.S. government, manufacturers of adult bed rails are not.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 37,000 emergency room injuries and 155 adult bedrail deaths in the decade leading up to 2012. Eighty percent of the victims were older than 60. More than 500 deaths among bedrail victims were recorded since 1985.

Hospitals, long-term care facilities and private caregivers have reported instances of older patients becoming pinned between bedrails and mattresses. Frail victims are often suffocated in the struggle to breathe and free themselves.

Federal officials issued an alert 18 years ago about the hazards of adult bedrails. The government didn't go as far as forcing manufacturers to paste injury and death warning labels on them.

Victim-blaming allows injuries to go unreported. Hospitals and nursing homes may be motivated to hide evidence of safety flaws or blame patients' health conditions for bedrail injuries. Lawsuits brought against bedrail manufacturers frequently end in fault-free settlements that include clauses to prevent victims or families from talking about the liability claim.

Society's attitude toward the elderly may be the reason defective bedrails aren't front-page news when victims are old and infirm. Without public pressure, strong government regulations for bedrails can be dismissed.

Plaintiffs still have the opportunity to resolve product liability matters personally in Illinois courts. Compensation is available for injury victims of any age or families whose loved ones die in defective bedrail accidents.

Source:  union-bulletin.com, "Bedrails can be deadly to older adults" Lindsay Wise, Oct. 11, 2013

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