It was a last minute run to the grocery store for milk–you were in a hurry, sure, but you weren’t speeding and you weren’t driving recklessly. You got to the last stop sign before the store, pulled out and before you knew what was happening, you’d been broadsided by a small truck. Thankfully you’d been wearing your seatbelt. You seemed fine, although your head was ringing pretty badly.

Your natural reaction, and what you are encouraged to do by your agent, is to call and report the accident to your insurance company right away. It wasn’t your fault, you want to make sure they know that, you want to make sure you can get to a doctor, and you want to give a statement so that your side of the story is preserved.

Not so fast!

It may seem counter-intuitive, but calling your insurance company right after an accident is possibly the single worst way thing you can do. You pay your premiums, on-time and in-full every month, and you expect–and rightly so–that your company will therefore be more than willing to uphold their end of their contract with you.

But the fact is that insurance companies are not always quick to write a check or cover doctor bills. They know that if they can show that your injuries are mild, or even argue that they are completely unrelated to the accident, they may have a basis for partial–or even full–denial of your claim.

How you can protect yourself

The single most important phone call you can make after an accident is to a personal injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys work for you and no one else. It is their job to deal with insurance companies, to require them to follow all laws, and to pay you what they are required to pay you.

That ringing in your head? It is very likely a concussion. Not only will you need medical treatment, but with mild brain damage, you will be in no position to give a statement or be questioned by an adjuster. Your attorney can ensure that you get the treatment you need as soon as you need it, and give a statement to your insurance company when it is a healthy time for you–not a convenient time for them.

If you’ve been in an accident, think ahout calling an attorney before you call your insurance company. Many personal injury attorneys are available round the clock. You have rights under your policy and under your states insurance rules. But only you can protect them. Do the best thing for you and your family: Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.