Thanks to seat belts, airbags and a variety of nationwide campaigns aimed at driver awareness, traffic collisions are less deadly than ever. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are no longer a serious risk: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 32,000 people are killed in the United States each year as the result of a traffic accident. Another two million people are injured in these crashes.

Given its size and its extraordinary traffic density, it should come as no surprise that Los Angeles is home to a significant portion of all U.S. traffic collisions. The city typically has around 50,000 collisions per year, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

The consequences of these accidents can be severe. In addition to serious and often fatal injuries, traffic collisions commonly lead to lost wages and other long-term financial problems. A serious collision can also result in debilitating mental effects, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological issues.

Given the severity of these potential outcomes, it’s vitally important that you’re aware of your rights under the law — and the actions you should take in the wake of any auto accident.

Steps to Take Following an Auto Accident

It’s not easy to remain calm and focused following an auto accident. Yet understanding what to do after a collision can help ensure that everyone remains as safe as possible.

First, it’s important to get everyone to safety. If you’re in the middle of a busy road, move everyone to a safer location. Check everyone for injuries, and contact emergency services.

You should also be aware that injuries sustained during an auto accident may not be immediately visible. In fact, they might not even be noticeable until days or even weeks later. This means that you should exercise caution and seek some form of medical evaluation if you suspect you may be injured.

You’ll also need to contact local authorities and exchange information with the other driver, including names, contact information and driver’s license and insurance information. Do not admit liability, however, as this may be used against you should litigation ensue.

Next, document the scene of the accident with photos and video, including damage to your vehicle and footage of the scene to provide context. If witnesses are present, ask them for contact information as well.

Locating the Right Legal Advocate for You

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident through no fault of your own, you may wish to consult an attorney. The right legal advocate can help you navigate the often tricky process of dealing with insurance companies and other drivers.

Insurance companies have a wealth of legal expertise and resources at their disposal, and their goal is to ensure that injured people settle for as little as possible.

Working with an experienced Los Angeles attorney that specializes in complex auto accident litigation is the best way to even the playing field — and ensure that you are treated fairly under the law.