You’re going to need the advice and representation of a personal injury attorney if you’re injured in California. Chances are, though, you’re not going to be hiring an attorney within the first few hours of the incident.

So, with or without an attorney, here are Five Very Important Steps you should take immediately after an accident or injury.

Step One: Don’t Discuss The Incident With the Other Party or Their Representative

The other party, or their representative (usually an insurance company adjuster or investigator) may try to get to you to answer questions soon after the incident – oftentimes within hours. Statements that you make at the time of the accident or following the accident could be used against you as the case unfolds.

Do not talk to the other party or their representative with your attorney present!

Step Two: Seek Immediate Medical Attention

If you've been injured, or there is a possibility that you've been injured, get thee to a doctor, emergency room or an urgent care facility immediately. Be sure that the medical practitioner documents your injuries and the fact that you've just been involved in an accident (or fall, or dog bite, etc.)

Step Three: Write Things Down

It’s natural for our memories to fade with the passage of time. We’re all human. Make written notes so that you can refresh your memory about the incident. In California, some cases don’t get to court for years. Defense attorneys (the lawyers who are going to try to gut your case) will do their best to paint you as a liar or exaggerator if you don’t have a great recollection of the incident.

Step Four: Save The Evidence

You want to be sure, to the extent possible, that evidence is preserved. Evidence is essential in proving your case down the line!

Do not lose, alter or destroy evidence!

Vehicle Accident: Repair work should not be started until detailed pictures have been taken of your vehicle (car, truck, bicycle, motorcycle, etc.)

Dangerous or Defective Product: Save the product and its parts (for example, if a bottle breaks, save the broken pieces!). Keep the box in which it came. Save the receipt!

Dog Bite or Animal Attack: Save the torn clothing and any other evidence of the attack. Don’t wash the clothes you were wearing.

Slip and Fall/ Trip and Fall: Keep the shoes you were wearing, do not throw them out and do not keep wearing them. You will want to keep them in the condition that they were in at the time of your fall. In other words: Don’t wear, repair or throw them out until your case is settled!

Step Five: Take Pictures of Your Injuries

Take pictures of all parts of your anatomy that show signs of injury before the healing process begins. Date the pictures accordingly (be sure that your digital camera has the right date!). Then take daily pictures of your injuries.

If you have scarring, be sure to get pictures. If you’re going to have the scars surgically removed or reduced, be sure to take before and after pictures.

In some situations, your lawyer may hire a professional medical photographer to take these pictures.