You’ve done your best to stay safe, and you don’t make a habit of driving long distances in terrible weather. Your car is pristine and completely uncluttered, and you’re a pretty great driver, all things considered. And yet, the worst has happened: you got into a car accident. Regardless of how hard you try, you may get into a car crash – such is the nature of the risk that comes with driving. Now is the time to focus on how to overcome this obstacle and protect yourself both financially and legally from further harm. The following tips will help guide you through what should come next.

Stay Calm

The first important tip you should take into account is staying calm, and not panicking. That’s the last thing you should do in case of an emergency. Depending on the individual, people can either freeze when faced with a calamity or go into panic mode – the latter definitely does more harm than good. If you’ve just crashed your car, and you don’t feel as though you’ve been terribly hurt, then do your best to calmly assess the situation. In that case, you may be able to assess the damage with clear eyes and minimize further fallout.

Get the Authorities

You may have collided with another car, or into a lamppost – it’s not clear. Either way, take a deep breath, step out of the car, and if there’s another driver then check in on them. Hopefully, they will be ok, too, if a bit frazzled. Both parties should then make the decision to call the authorities. For your own sake and that of the other driver, you should get a police report written up. As experienced El Paso car accident attorneys will attest to, the first thing your lawyer or car insurance rep will look at is the police report. That document should contain all the details regarding the accident, and make it clear the extent to which either party could have been at fault. This will be crucial in protecting you from legal harm should further action be necessary.

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Solicit Medical Help

Just as important – if not more – than the police report is the medical examiner’s report. The EMT should be called onto the scene to survey any harm that may have come to you, or to anyone else, as a result of the accident. This will provide crucial information to help protect you moving forward, and will serve as proof that you will need to be compensated financially for any medical bills incurred.

Do Not Hand Over Information

An important point about tip number 2: you should not even think about leaving the scene of the accident before the police arrive. Nor should you hand over personal information or details regarding your car insurance to anyone until the police are there to document the incident. Yes, it may take time for them to arrive, but it is in your interest to sit tight and just wait for the authorities to come by and document everything properly.

Document Everything

Even if you hire a lawyer soon after, you should do a lot of work in terms of gathering documents and information on the accident and perpetrators. You will need everything from the physical description of the other driver, their license plate number, and the make or model of the vehicle, to the full name and badge number of the police officer. Also, if a towing company came by with a tow truck driver, then be sure to collect their information as well. You never know where you could be legally liable for anything, and the best way to protect yourself is to have a paper trail for the entire accident at the ready. Also, if you can grab a few picks of the damage using your phone camera, then all the better: images will only help buoy your case further, and will offer a clear visual representation of what happened. Be sure to ask the driver of the other vehicle for their permission to take a pic first, though, since failure to do so may lead to more trouble.

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There may be other things for you to do in the event of an accident – you may want to go to the hospital the next day to get your injuries checked out, and you’ll definitely need to call the insurance company. However, the tips included above are the basis for a lot of what you need to do in the aftermath of a car accident, and if done correctly will provide plenty of legal cushioning.