Too many drivers become their own worst enemies following an accident. They make innocent and critical mistakes that haunt them later.

Part of the challenge is that the scene of any personal injury auto accident is chaos. Knowing the steps to take, as well as the steps to avoid, are the keys to taking control of your fate.

What to do after an auto accident

The first step, of course, is seeking medical attention for the injured. Do not ignore your own injuries, no matter how small. Make an appointment with your doctor in case a small bump or bruise becomes serious.

Always call 911 and cooperate with investigating officers. When answering questions, be honest and stick to the facts. The police report is vital to determining who is responsible for a crash.

While waiting for police, you can begin your own investigation. Get contact and insurance information from other motorists and witnesses. Take photographs of the scene, damage and your injuries.

What not to do after an auto accident

You should think of the accident scene as a crime scene. Do not tamper with evidence, for example, by moving your vehicle unless it is necessary for safety.

After speaking with police, do not leave the scene without their permission. They may have follow-up questions during the course of the initial investigation.

When gathering your own information, do not discuss who was at fault. Whatever you do, do not apologize for your role in the accident. In either case, what you say is possible evidence against you.

Every step you take is about protecting your rights. Do not let a personal injury accident threaten the future of you and your loved ones.

What you do secures your future

Often, the fallout of an accident comes down to one thing: your word versus the word of someone else. It could be the other driver. It could be a witness. It could be the insurance company.

It often is impossible to avoid an accident. Yet you can take charge, and protect your interests, in the minutes following a crash.