A Virginia car crash can be a frightening and possibly catastrophic experience for you and your family. Depending on the nature and severity of your crash, you and your passengers could find yourself facing serious injuries.

Knowing what to do – and not do – after a crash can mean the difference between recovering your damages, both personal and property, as quickly as possible and beginning what seems like a never-ending post-crash journey. Here are the top 5 things you should do immediately after an accident.

1. Stay where you are

Remain with your vehicle until law enforcement officers arrive and permit you to leave. If you leave too quickly, they may charge you with hit-and-run or leaving the scene of an accident.

2. Check for injuries

Determine if you, your passengers or anyone in any other vehicle(s) involved in the crash sustained injuries. If so, immediately use your cellphone to call 911 and request both emergency medical assistance and law enforcement assistance. While waiting for the first responders, make no attempt to move any injured person; you could exacerbate his or her injuries by doing so. On the other hand, should (s)he face immediate danger by remaining in the vehicle, such as from fire, rising flood waters or a live electrical line, moving him or her out of harm’s way is your only realistic option.

3. Exchange information with the other driver(s)

Make sure to get and give the following information from and to all other drivers involved in the crash:

  • Name, address and phone number
  • Driver license state and number
  • License plate state and number
  • Name and phone number of the person’s insurance company

When talking with these drivers, be as cordial and forthcoming as possible, but never, under any circumstances, say or imply that you may have caused the accident. Also speak with anyone who witnessed the accident, such as pedestrians or the occupants of any vehicles that stopped to help. Get their names and phone numbers in case you or your attorney needs to contact them later.

4. Take photos

Assuming your cellphone takes pictures, use it to document the following for each vehicle involved in the crash, including yours:

  • License plate
  • Make and model
  • Evidence of new damage
  • Evidence of prior existing damage

5. Make a police report

When law enforcement officers arrive and begin their investigation, obtain each officer’s name and badge number. Answer their questions truthfully, but again, never say or imply that you believe you caused the accident. Be sure to ask them when, where and how you can obtain a copy of their accident report and its number.

Only after doing these five critical things is it time to call your own insurance company to report the accident.