By Ed Greenberger, THELAW.TV

Car accidents are an unfortunate reality of life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 10.8 million accidents involving motor vehicles in 2009. That year, nearly 36,000 Americans died as a result of those accidents and millions of others suffered injuries, a good percentage of which were serious.

There is often nothing you can to avoid a car accident, although obeying speed limits and traffic signals, and staying away from distractions like cell phones and food, can limit your risk of getting into an accident. But what should you do if you're injured in a car accident that you believe was somebody else's fault?

"Everyone's seen TV commercials with lawyers who address that very question," says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV. "Often people dismiss those ads as simple noise and bluster. But lawyers who deal with car accident victims fill an extremely valuable role."

After being injured in an accident, consulting with an auto accident lawyer should be one of the first things you do. Depending on the type of accident you’re involved in and the injuries you suffer, you might be entitled to monetary damages. In addition to helping you file a lawsuit that could result in compensation, an auto accident lawyer can help in many other ways, including:

  • Ensuring you file the proper reports for your claim

  • Advising you on obtaining the necessary medical records

  • Assisting in the process of filing the proper claims with your auto insurance company

"After suffering a serious injury in a car accident, the last thing a person should have to deal with is pushing a bunch of paperwork and fighting with car insurance companies," explains Houston car accident lawyer Ralph Manginello of The Manginello Law Firm, PLLC. "That’s why it's so important to hire an attorney who can take the reins and get the results you deserve."

Of course, not every car accident results in an injury. In fact, injuries only occur in about one-third of the accidents in the U.S. Still, if you’re in an accident, your vehicle is likely to suffer some damage. While that’s not necessarily a serious issue, dealing with the damage can be a tremendous drain on your time and money. Here are some tips to follow in case you’re involved in an accident:

  • Keep an "accident kit" in your car consisting of a pen and paper for taking notes and a camera to take pictures of the damage

  • Always exchange information with other drivers involved -- including name, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, insurance company, and policy number

  • File an accident report with the police, which could help speed up the claim process with your insurance company