When you’ve been involved in a car accident, the first thing on your mind is whether or not you or the other driver has been hurt. The second thing that may come to mind is how much damage your car has sustained. The last thing anyone wants to deal with in this stressful situation is filing a claim. However, it must be done in order to receive compensation for damages, or to pay for them if the accident is your fault.

Following an auto accident, there are specific steps you should take to make the process as smooth as possible. Here are some helpful tips:

Call Your Provider: You should always contact your auto insurance company as soon as you can after an accident. It doesn’t matter who is at fault, it doesn’t matter if there is minimal damage. Whether it is a fender bender or a major accident, you need to let your insurance company know right away. You need documented evidence of the accident—otherwise it is simply your word against the other driver.

Keep Records and Documentation: Make sure you take down the other driver’s information, such as their plate number, their name and their insurance information. You should also receive a copy of the police report and keep documentation regarding medical bills and lost wages.

Know the Details of Your Policy: You should know the time limit for filing a claim, whether or not you should use your own adjuster to assess the damage to your vehicle or use one from the company, and whether or not your policy covers car rental while you are waiting for your car to be repaired.

Every state has different laws that regulate claims. You should never hesitate to ask your provider if you have any questions regarding the claims process. You may also contact your state insurance department if you feel like your provider is not being helpful.

The best way to ensure that the claims process is as painless as possible is to understand how the claims process works. Don’t wait till you are involved in a stressful accident to find out.

You should never drive without proper insurance. If you think filing a claim is stressful, imagine having to pay for damages out of pocket! For many uninsured drivers, this is a reality. Furthermore, driving without insurance can result in license suspension, fees, and even jail time. It’s just not worth it.