No one wants to be involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, bad habits such as distracted driving make these incidents a reality for most drivers sooner or later. Whether you’re involved in a minor fender bender or a major accident, there are certain steps you should take after the fact to protect yourself and others.

Stay Safe

Turn on your hazard lights and safely maneuver your vehicle off the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic, if possible. Do not attempt to retrieve items such as a license plate or bumper from the road. Avoid confrontation with the other driver(s) involved, but don’t claim responsibility, either. That’s for the authorities to sort out later on.

Call the Police

In the case of potential injury, dial 911 immediately. Even if no one appears to be injured, you should still contact the police and file a report so everything is documented for insurance purposes. The police department will decide whether it’s necessary to send an officer to the scene.

Gather the Appropriate Information

It can be hard to think clearly immediately after an accident. Keep a copy of this post-accident checklist in your glove compartment to help you organize your thoughts and collect the information the insurance companies — and possibly the authorities — will need. This checklist includes items such as taking photos of the scene to show road conditions, vehicle damage and other circumstances relevant at the time of the accident.

Car accidents are never fun, but being prepared can help you minimize the stress of an already difficult situation.