Getting into a car accident of any sort is a scary experience. Whether you are a passenger or a driver, whether you hit a parked car or collide with another vehicle while driving, you are beholden to stop and exchange information with anyone else involved. Hit-and-run accidents come with heavy fines and penalties, and you don’t want to risk those punishments after an accident. Although it may be difficult to think clearly after a traumatic event, it is important that you stay calm and follow the right steps that can lead to the best resolution. These five guidelines will help ensure you do all the appropriate things after an auto accident in California.

Take Care of Yourself

No matter what the circumstances of the accident, your main focus always should be taking care of yourself. Even if it seems you are fine, you never know what types of medical problems could arise in the future. If you are offered medical attention, don’t refuse it. You could end up with whiplash or internal bleeding that is not immediately apparent, and your life could be at risk. If you are in good enough physical condition to make a call, dial 911 and wait for medical professionals to arrive. You might even be able to tend to other victims, depending on the severity of the accident.

Get Information

Again, if your mental and physical condition allows, you can make contact with the other driver or drivers involved in the accident, if there are any. Do not make any confessions of guilt or accuse the other driver. Instead, keep calm and collect the pertinent info from anyone involved. You will need the other driver’s name, address, phone number, insurance company name, and policy number. If you can, take photos of the damage to the vehicles and some shots of the accident scene, noting things such as skid marks, signage, and travel direction. You should also take photos of your injuries if you suffered any.

Contact Police

Chances are that someone has already called the police to report the accident by this time. However, if no one has, be sure to make the call. Having a police report will be vital to your case if you end up filing a lawsuit and insurance claim. Tell the 911 operator what has happened, whether anyone needs medical attention, and any other pertinent details. Stay on the line until he or she gives you permission to hang up. Even if the accident is minor and no police officers arrive, you still must follow up after the incident to file a police report of your own.

Look for Witnesses

While you are waiting for police or an ambulance to show up, be on the lookout for passersby who might have witnessed the accident. Although the police likely will talk to people on the scene, you can act first to make sure they don’t leave. Get the name, address, and phone number of anyone who can testify as to what exactly happened in the accident. Even if you don’t question them, the authorities likely will want to.

Get an Attorney

The legal aftermath of an auto accident in California can be extensive, especially if you decide to file a lawsuit. You should retain an attorney right away so they can start building a case for you. An accident attorney will seek compensation on your behalf for medical bills, time lost from work, or damage to your vehicle. Rather than accepting the limited offer the other driver’s insurance might extend, an attorney will seek as much compensation as possible. He or she will make sure no steps are missed when seeking resolution of your case.

It may be difficult to do all the right things after the trauma of having an auto accident. These guidelines should help keep you on the path to a good resolution after the fact. You might even consider leaving a printed copy of these tips in the glove compartment of your car.