In the aftermath of a car accident, it’s important to take actions that can safeguard the health and life of everyone involved. It’s also important to take actions that can later protect you financially should you need to file a claim or lawsuit in the accident.

The first thing you should do is call emergency services. Calling 911 gets emergency responders there to treat the injured, direct traffic and manage the scene. If it’s a smaller accident and no one is in need of emergency medical treatment, then you should at least call the police so an officer can come out to manage the scene and make a report. That report can be valuable evidence during the claim or lawsuit process.

The next thing you might do is take pictures with your cell phone. Portable recording devices let you get “eyewitness” accounts of the damage, which can be valuable later if claims are denied or someone claims that damage wasn’t as you said it was. By the time your claim gets to court in some cases, you might not have the vehicle in question or might have had it repaired, so photo evidence is important.

Finally, gather as much information as you can. Exchange information with all the drivers involved in the accident and get the names and numbers of any witnesses that are willing to provide such information. You can’t bully anyone into giving you this information, but you can ask nicely. You’ll also want to get the name of the office or officers responding to the scene.

Armed with this information, you might want to talk to a personal injury lawyer about your options before you start making deals or taking settlement offers. A lawyer might be able to help you stake a bigger claim or better protect your rights.

Source: Auto Trader, “5 Mistakes After a Car Crash That Can Cost You Big,” Russ Heaps, accessed Dec. 09, 2016