Accidents happen. According to the Insurance Information Institute, over six million motor vehicle accidents occurred in 2018, while nearly two million accident victims sustained a physical injury.

Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be stressful and confusing. Fortunately, if you have coverage and a plan, the process can go much smoother. So, what are your options after an auto accident?

Check for injuries.

Immediately after the accident, check for injuries. If anyone was injured in the accident, call 911. Even if the accident was minor, it’s important to call the police to file a police report for your insurance company.

Exchange information and document the accident.

The at-fault driver is responsible for reporting the accident to their insurance company. However, because many at-fault drivers are reluctant to report accidents, it’s also important to contact their insurer as well.

It’s essential to get complete information on the other motorist at the accident scene. In addition, you’ll want to collect as much evidence as possible, including:

  • The other driver’s name and address
  • The other driver’s insurance policy information
  • Contact information from witnesses of the accident
  • Pictures of the accident scene and the damage to each vehicle
  • The police report number

Decide whether to file an insurance claim.

If you were at fault for the accident and the damage isn’t extensive, you might be tempted to pay for the other driver’s repairs to avoid dealing with insurance companies. However, repairs are more expensive than you think. In a recent study, test crashes at 10 mph produced damage that looked minor but totaled $3,000 to $6,000 in repairs.

In some cases, you may be required to file a claim with your insurance company, even if the car accident was the other driver’s fault. Here’s how the claim process works:

  • File a claim with your insurance company. Your insurer will reach out to the other driver’s insurance company.
  • In no-fault states, PIP coverage pays for physical injuries to the driver and other passengers in the car. Don’t worry: You have the right to sue for serious injuries, emotional distress, and medical bills later on.
  • The other driver’s insurance company investigates the car accident. Next, you’ll either need to provide an estimate for repairs or schedule an appointment with an adjuster.

Hire a personal injury attorney.

If you experienced a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely contact you shortly after the accident. Insurance companies typically reach out to car accident victims by phone, and an insurance representative will ask you questions about the accident. Most accident victims don’t realize that the information gathered during these phone calls is frequently used as a basis to lowball—or even deny—a victim’s insurance claim, according to the personal injury experts at The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm.

Hiring a personal injury attorney can help you avoid delays and denials after your car accident. To find a personal injury lawyer near you, ask friends and family members for recommendations or search for a qualified lawyer on Google with a location-specific search like “accident lawyer Denver.“ If insurance companies fail to make a fair offer, working with an experienced attorney can help you understand your legal options and obtain fair compensation in court.

Repair your car.

In most states, it’s illegal for insurance companies to steer you toward a specific repair shop. However, some insurance providers provide a preferred list of repair shops to choose from. If you’re making payments on your car, contact your lender for more information on choosing a repair shop.

Otherwise, you have the right to choose where to repair your car. If you don’t have a regular shop, consider these tips when making your decision:

  • Check that the shop is ASE certified.
  • Read online reviews from previous clients.
  • Compare repair estimates with other mechanics.
  • Ask about the shop’s other automotive and diesel certifications.

An auto accident can leave even the most experienced drivers feeling stressed, but understanding your options can help protect you from unnecessary worries.