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phillips, hunt & walker Pontoon Boat Dock Amputation

Phillips & Hunt often consults the Journal of Emergency Medicine when evaluating cases. In August of 2011, medical doctors wrote about a trend we have seen and a unique type of case we have handled: the loss of one or more fingers from a pontoon boat gate or rail.

Pontoon boats are common in Florida, as they are relatively inexpensive and very mobile into all sorts of waterways.

In 2015, the Coast Guard counted 4,158 accidents that involved 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. Most of these happen because of human error, including carelessness, reckless operation or inattention or inexperience by operator or passenger. However, finger amputation due to a pontoon boat gate or rail is not the fault of the operator, but more of a design flaw.

Making matters worse is that the nature of these injuries often prevents fingers from being reattached. Doctors call it an “avulsion,” which means that the finger is pinched and pulled off of the hand.


Many people are used to recalls and warnings from the Consumer Products Safety Commission, but boat safety issues are regulated by the Boating Safety Division of the U.S. Coast Guard. The Boating Safety Divison has not been effective at addressing and eliminating this risk. This means that these injuries are vastly underreported.

The Florida and Georgia based Law Offices of John M. Phillips has handled these cases.

Years ago, Bennington Marine Corporation and Bentley Industries, LLC issued voluntary recalls of the impacted pontoon boats and directed the retrofitting of guard rails with aftermarket finger guards to be installed in the narrow areas around the side gates. Yet, because of the voluntary nature of the recall and lack of widespread attention to the problem, these incidents continue, even years later.

As the Journal of Emergency Medicine points out:

“(M)any older pontoon boats are currently in use that lack such finger guards and continue to present a significant risk to adults and children who may use these boats. Based on our experience, we recommend a concerted public education effort directed towards the potential purchasers and users of pontoon boats as well as renewed pressure by the general public, the boating industry, and the USCG on the manufacturers and retailers of pontoon boats to ensure that this design flaw is addressed.

The important safety issues these cases highlight include the risk of injury associated with pontoon boats without appropriate railing finger guards, the urgent need for retrofitting of older pontoon boats with appropriate protective devices, as well as the need to identify those boats currently being manufactured that do not meet this standard.”

We assist people with recovering compensation from these injuries.

About us:

We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards and what clients have to say about us and give us a call for a free consultation where our lawyers will consult with you personally.  John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama and before the U.S. Supreme Court with passion and compassion. Our firm handles a wide variety of injury and death cases, criminal defense, family law and a host of high profile matters. We can be emailed at or call us at (877) 7-INJURY, or 877-746-5879, or in Florida at (904) 444-4444 or Georgia at (912) 444-4444.