What are the steps to take after a car accident?

The first steps after a car crash may protect you physically and legally. You will want to call the police and an ambulance, if necessary.

It is not uncommon after a car accident to feel a little shell-shocked, no matter how minor the accident was. According to the United States Census Bureau, about 10 million car crashes occur each year, so those who are trying navigate the post-accident steps are far from alone. What should be done immediately after the crash? What about protecting one's legal rights and getting compensation, especially if the other driver was at fault? There are several important steps that Oklahoma drivers should take after a motor vehicle collision that may help make the following days and weeks easier to bear and keep things organized on the legal side.

Immediately after an accident

Drivers and passengers should take the following actions just after a crash:

• Get to safety - If possible, vehicles should be moved out of traffic, preferably to the shoulder of the road. If the vehicles are disabled, people should stay away from traffic lanes that still have moving vehicles, go to the sidewalk or remain in their vehicles to await law enforcement.

• Call the police - Someone should immediately call the police, no matter how minor the accident seems. Law enforcement will assess the situation and take a report, which may later help during the insurance claim or legal process.

• Check for injuries - If someone is seriously injured, an ambulance should be called. Minor injuries may be taken care of by first aid at the site, as long as they do not require immediate medical attention.

• Exchange insurance information - Drivers should give each other their insurance company information, but should otherwise limit the conversation. Something as simple as saying, "I'm sorry" could be taken as an admission of fault.

• Document the accident - If it is safe to do so, it may be a good idea to take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to the vehicles and skid marks on the road. This evidence may later prove useful in a claim.

• Ask for a copy of the police report and witness statements - These documents can be helpful during an insurance claim or personal injury case.

For drivers who did not seem injured initially, it may be a good idea to get checked by a doctor within the next few days. Some injuries, particularly whiplash, bruises, blows to the head or joint injuries, may not be apparent right away but can show up within a few days. Some injuries that seem minor at first may be serious and require extensive treatment.

You may be entitled to compensation if you are injured by another driver. The first steps you take after an accident may help you begin your claim process, but it may be a good idea to contact an experienced Oklahoma personal injury attorney for further assistance.