Being involved in an auto accident can be traumatic. It can cause serious injuries and damages. Even a minor fender bender can mean lost time from work and the expense of car repairs. An insurance adjuster or claims specialist will decide how much your claim is worth. Everyone wants their claim settled quickly, but rushing the process could cost you. Whether you caused the accident or were the victim of someone else’s reckless driving, there are some things you should do before speaking to an insurance adjuster.

Call the police to report the accident.

If anyone is injured, be sure to call for EMS as well. Don’t accept blame and don’t make accusations of blame. Exchange information with everyone at the accident scene, including the other driver and any witnesses. Don’t forget to get the responding police officer’s name, badge number and the accident report number. Then, write your own accident report, noting everything you remember before the crash and everything you observed afterward. Start with where you were going and what was happening when the crash occurred. Note the people who were with you, the time, and the weather.

Call your insurance agent.

Whether or not you caused the accident, your insurance policy may provide benefits that you will need before things are settled. Even if the other driver was clearly at fault, his or her insurance company may not see it that way, so you may need your collision insurance in order to get repairs started. If the other driver doesn’t have car insurance, your policy’s uninsured or underinsured motorist clause may be the only way to get your car fixed right away.

Take inventory of all the damages.

Even before you know the cost of car repairs, you should document the damage by taking notes and pictures. Get copies of police and any medical reports. Even if you and your passengers feel okay at the crash scene, it’s a good idea to see a doctor shortly afterward to make sure. Adrenaline can mask the discomfort of injuries. Then make a list of anything else that was damaged in the crash, including clothing, eyewear, and electronic gear, like phones and tablets. Include brand names, model numbers and purchase dates. Take pictures of these damaged items too. That way you can include the non-vehicle damages in your claim.

Talk to an attorney.

It’s important to know your rights before settling your claim. This is especially true if your case involves significant damages and injuries, or if the other driver is blaming you for the accident. Whether you’re at fault or not, you must be very careful of the statements you make to the insurance adjuster and clearly understand any written agreement or settlement before you sign it. An attorney can help negotiate a settlement that maximizes your compensation and minimizes any liabilities. For serious accidents, there is no substitute for having an experienced lawyer on your side.

Proceeding cautiously, taking thorough notes throughout the process, and consulting with a medical and legal attorney will prepare you to deal with the insurance adjuster and can smooth the claims process so you can get on with your life.