A serious car crash can lead to a variety of injuries for victims, including those that are external as well as internal. A new study identifies that wearing a seat belt may not protect victims inside a vehicle against severe liver injuries in car crashes. Among more than 50,000 individuals who have liver injuries due to a car crash, those with severe liver injuries were twice as likely to suffer fatal injuries as those with mild or moderate liver damage before.

Those people who were wearing seat belts were much less likely to have a severe liver injury, and the risk decreased slightly when both airbags and seat belts were used. But airbags alone did not affect the severity of the liver injury.

Every year in the United States, motor vehicle accidents lead to more than 2 million emergency rooms visits and cost more than $1 trillion to the health care system. Unfortunately, blunt abdominal trauma is a leading portion of many of these accidents. The two most commonly injured internal organs after a collision are the spleen and the liver. Both of these can cause severe bleeding, and although the spleen can be removed, if necessary during surgery, the liver is critical and cannot be removed.

Severe liver injuries may impede the patient’s life for many years.