Car accidents are unexpected and scary. Don’t let your auto accident be dictated by the unknown and become a stressor in your life. Instead, be proactive by learning the exact steps to take should you find yourself in an auto accident.

Stop and pull over into the shoulder or median.

Even before you get out of the car to check for damages or to check on the other driver(s), stop driving and pull your car off the road, clearing the way for other motorists. Don’t ever drive away from an accident. Always pull over to check for damages and to ensure that all parties involved haven’t been injured. Even if there were no visible damages to either vehicle involved, it’s still smart to proceed to the next step rather than driving off.

Call the police.

You can use your smartphone to find the local police department’s direct line or dial 911 and tell the operator it isn’t an emergency accident but that there has been a collision. In many areas, it is even illegal to leave the scene of an accident without calling the authorities. Even if it’s not, it’s always a good idea to have the police put together a written report of the accident, even if no insurance claims need to be made. This covers you down the road if either one of your vehicles starts acting up.

Document the scene.

For a more serious accident in which your vehicle sustained some damage, make sure you document everything. Even the slightest damage can end up costing more than you realize, and you want to make sure that you get everything covered by insurance. Take photos of the damage, record what happened during the accident, and get witness testimony if possible.

File an insurance claim.

Contact your insurance to file the accident report. If you were at fault, you will need to file a claim with your insurance provider. If another driver was at fault, their insurance company should be getting in touch with you to file your claim and get the damage to your car fixed. Have your car’s damage appraised and get an estimate for the cost of repair.

Hire an auto accident lawyer.

If you were injured during the accident or if your vehicle sustained serious damage, then you may want to look into hiring an auto accident lawyer to ensure that you get all of your expenses covered. Medical expenses and car repair estimates can be overwhelming, so it’s smart to have an experienced auto accident lawyer on your team to help you navigate through the fine print.

Drive safely, but know that accidents happen. It’s better to know exactly what steps to take in the event of an accident. If you are in a car accident, be sure to follow the above steps and try to stay calm.