Despite our best efforts, accidents happen. The best thing you can do when faced with an automobile accident is to protect yourself physically and financially.

If you find yourself in an accident— no matter what the cause— follow these important steps to protect yourself.

Get Out of Harm’s Way Immediately

In the moments following an accident, you will likely be in shock. Your first priority should be to get out of harm’s way (without leaving the scene). If possible, move your car out of traffic and put on your hazard lights.

Don’t jump out of your car without looking for oncoming traffic. If you think you’re injured, it’s best to stay put and call for help. An exception to this rule is if you smell gas or see smoke. In that case, get out and away from the vehicle as soon as possible.

Do a Self-Assessment

Take a moment to scan your body for any potential injuries. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and calm down your stress response. If there are no visible injuries or targeted areas of pain, then you can focus on dealing with the accident before seeking medical attention. Otherwise, call for help immediately.

Your adrenaline will protect you from feeling some injuries in the moments and hours following an accident. In fact, many people don’t feel the bumps and bruises of a car accident until the next day.

Watch Your Words

No matter what, do not admit fault in any way, shape, or form to anyone. According to Brian White, a Houston-based personal injury lawyer, “Do not sign anything taking responsibility or admit fault to anyone else involved, whether directly or indirectly. If you believe you’ve caused the accident or could be found liable, contact an attorney immediately.”

Admitting fault comes in many forms. Even apologizing could be taken as an admission of guilt and could be used against you in court. Focus on asking if everyone is ok and collecting the information you need.

Document the Scene

Take some time to document the scene, writing notes from witnesses, and taking photos. It’s worth calling the police to come and assess the scene as well, regardless of the severity of the accident. You will also want to obtain a copy of the police report for your records.

You’ll also want to collect the name and insurance policy number and provider of anyone else involved in the accident, as well as the plate number, and vehicle details. If the other driver does not want to share their insurance information, documenting their license plate number becomes the top priority.

Seek Medical Assistance

When you are cleared to leave the accident, seek medical assistance immediately. Even if you feel alright, this is an essential step in the record-making process. You could end up with whiplash, for example, or experience other issues the next day so that the initial visit will play a role in any ensuing insurance or legal claims.

A medical professional will also be able to identify any potential problems you may not notice or be aware of at first. For example, internal bleeding isn’t obvious to the untrained eye but could be detected by a medical professional, upon examination.

Contact Your Insurance Company

Contact your insurance company as soon as you can to get the paperwork started on your claim. You can make this call while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. They will have a series of questions for you regarding the details of the accident.

Contact Your Employer

If you feel your accident will leave you unable to work for a day or two, contact your employer as soon as you can. They may request a doctor’s note, which you can obtain during your examination. Having a day or two to rest after an accident is often helpful for recovery, and allows you to process the emotional component of the occurrence as well.

Use this guide as a checklist for what to do if you are ever involved in an automobile accident. Above all, remember that safety is the number one priority for everyone involved.