Over six million people are involved in vehicle crashes each year in this country. Despite the shock and emotions involved, it is important to take certain actions after car accidents for your safety and to preserve your legal rights.

Safety first

Before anything else, you must assure that you, your passengers, and anyone else involved in the cash is safe. Call 9-1-1- and ask for first-responders to care for anyone who is hurt.

Move away from heavy traffic to a safer location such as a sidewalk or a shoulder off the road. Activate your hazard lights and wait for first responders to come and provide help.

Also, quickly check the accident scene. See if there is smoke or leaking gas.

Contact the police

Call local police or the California Highway Patrol even if the accident is minor. The responding officer will likely ask each driver for their full name, vehicle registration, driver’s license information, proof of insurance and license plate number. It is also helpful to photograph this information.

Ask police for a copy of their final report or the process for getting it. You should also request the police officer’s name, badge number, and contact information.

Exchange information

Both parties to the crash should share their full names, home addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license information, insurance company and license plate numbers. Try to photograph this information.

Find out whether the other driver is the vehicle owner. If not, get the name of the other car’s owner. Note the car’s make, model, and color.

Do not sign any documents unless request by the police or an insurance agent.

Witnesses

Get the full names of any witnesses and their contact information.

What you should say

Remain calm. Do not argue. Conversations should be restricted to assuring everyone’s safety and exchanging the described information. Do not apologize or admit fault.

Photographs

Your cellphone is an excellent tool and allows you to photograph the crash and relevant documents. Take pictures of all vehicles in the crash from every angle and that shows all damage.

Completely photograph the crash scene and include road hazards and skid marks. Take pictures of the other vehicle’s license plate and the license of the other driver in case you wrote down this information incorrectly.

Record the accident

Write down everything that you can remember about the auto accident. This includes the time it happened, weather, road conditions, what other vehicles were doing and any other important details. You can also send a voice-to-text memo to yourself on your phone or use its notes tool.

Make sure you are not injured

In the confusion after an accident, you may not realize that you were injured, or some injuries may surface later. See your physician immediately if you later suspect that you were injured.

Determining fault and what happened during an auto accident can be difficult. An attorney can look for evidence and seek compensation for injuries and other losses in a personal injury lawsuit.