From short trips for day-to-day errands to long, congested commutes, Californians spend a lot of time on the road. With over 27 million licensed drivers in the state, it is not surprising that even a cautious driver may end up involved in a collision, and even a relatively minor accident can leave those involved feeling shaken. When an injury or worse occurs, the anxiety, adrenaline and chaos can easily become overwhelming.

While your safety and the safety of others present should be a priority after a car accident, it is also a good idea to be ready to gather as much information as possible at the scene. Making sure to document the incident thoroughly may be crucial for filing an insurance claim or proving fault should you become involved in a lawsuit.

Be prepared to exchange information with other drivers

California law states that drivers involved in a collision must stay at the scene and exchange information, even if only minor damage occurred and no one suffered injury. If you can, make sure to get the name, contact number, address and license information from the other driver. You should also try to obtain license plate numbers and vehicle registration information, including the VIN, make, model and year. Finally, take down the other driver’s insurance company name and policy number.

Be prepared to document the incident

Documentation just after an accident is often essential for both insurance purposes and legal protection. If you have a phone or camera, make sure to take photographs of injuries or damage from various angles. It is also a good idea to take photos or video of the scene in general, including traffic control signals and signs, potential visual obstacles or other items of note. Finally, get the contact information of anyone else who witnessed the incident, because they may be able to provide important testimony later.