The scope of this paper is the analysis of full-height bridge abutments on pile foundations, installed through soft soils, with a commercially available finite element software and soil model. Well-documented centrifuge test data were used as reference. Excess pore pressures developed in the clay layer, vertical and horizontal movements of the soft clay, pile displacements and bending moments, and abutment wall bending moments were chosen for comparison, since they are the most critical parameters for observation and design. Additionally, the validity of an analytical method (SIMPLE), which was proposed to analyse the piled abutments subjected to nearby surcharge loading, is discussed. This soil-structure interaction problem has been investigated over the last three decades, using either field or centrifuge tests, accompanied by FE analyses. Special modelling techniques and advanced soil models were used in these numerical studies to establish the most representative field behaviour. However, since the codes or techniques used in these advanced FE analyses are neither very practical nor easily accessible, it is difficult to employ them consistently in design. Thus, the results of this study are intended to provide some guidelines for designers, and to bring insight about the interacting mechanisms into the design process. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.