Although there are between 5 million and 6 million auto accidents in the U.S. each year, there are a number of people each year who getin their very first car accident. Or maybe even second.

And car accidents can be traumatic experiences, even minor “fender benders.” When a person suffers some measure of shock, it can be normal to not have any idea what to do next or what information is necessary to get and provide for your upcoming report and insurance claim. To help ease your mind, we’ve produced a list of frequently asked questions that can help you negotiate the first moments following an auto accident, when chaos and fear may be at their highest levels.

Printing out this page of car accident FAQs and keeping it with you can provide you the calm in the emotional storm and keep you focused on what you need to do to exact the best possible outcome from an auto accident.

When I am in a car accident, what should be the first things I should do?

We can cover this in a few steps, and doing these in this order will help police officers and insurance adjusters do their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  • First, check to see if anyone is injured. Even if the injuries are minor, call an ambulance and at least get EMTs on the scene to check everyone out. There may be injuries that no one knows about right away.
  • If there is serious injury or property damage, call the police to get an official report of the accident.
  • Collect as much information and evidence as you can to give to the police and to any insurance adjusters who arrive later.
    • Collect names of everyone involved in the accident (passengers included, especially anyone who is injured or killed).
    • Write down time, date and location of the accident (as much detail as possible).
    • Gather driver’s license numbers, insurance information, contact information, license plate numbers, and make and model information about the vehicles.
    • If you have a camera on your phone, take pictures of the accident scene and any evidence such as the cars, skid marks, broken glass, deployed airbags, road conditions or weather, etc. If you can, get photos of any injuries (but don’t take photos of anyone killed).
    • Get statements from witnesses when possible, and include contact information so investigators can follow up later.
  • File a police report and get a copy of the report for your records.

When should I call my insurance company?

The best thing to do is call after you have finished the steps above. Once you’ve gathered all your evidence and information, took care of the injured and have calmed down, stay at the scene and call your insurance company and calmly provide them all the information they ask you for to process their report. Do not admit any fault; stick only to the the evidence, information and facts requested.

Where does a personal-injury attorney come in?

Before any investigation is complete to determine fault of the accident, make sure you meet with a Memphis personal-injury attorney and present his or her with the same facts and information that you supplied to the insurance company. The attorney can consider your case and perhaps offer an independent investigator to go over the facts of your auto accident and help you determine if you have a legitimate claim, just in case the insurance companies try to determine fault in another direction so they don’t pay out.

What if I incur medical expenses for my injuries?

You should always put your health first. Get your medical treatment that you need, save the bills and medical records  for your attorney, and if an insurance company is dragging its feet in reimbursements or payments, your attorney can have all the paperwork and information necessary to consider filing an action against the insurer to provide fair and adequate compensation for pain, suffering and lost wages.

Should I ever admit even partial fault in an auto accident?

The best advice is no, never admit fault of any kind. Let the investigation and the facts bear out liability. Sure, you may know that you did something wrong, but many accidents aren’t caused by one single mistake – there are often multiple factors at play that you may not be aware of or may not recollect at the tiem of the accident. Always let the facts play out and then respond accordingly based on the findings.

Do I provide any information to any insurance companies regarding injuries or damage to my car?

Work all of that through your personal-injury attorney. Yor medical records are private and your attorney will release them if and when appropriate. Once you hire an attorney, you should not have any interaction with any insurance companies, other drivers or injured people from the accident, or even any witnesses. Your attorney should be your gatekeeper and should be the one who controls everything involving your case, even before it becomes a legal matter.