People buy car insurance because the law requires it and they hope they’ll never need it. If you do get in an accident and you’re to blame, your relief that you’re covered can quickly turn to dismay. That’s because the least little fender bender that’s your fault is going to increase your insurance premium when it renews. And heaven forbid you were already in a high-risk group required to pay more for car insurance, such as young males. (Unless you live in California, which outlawed basing rates on gender.) But just how much does your car insurance go up after an accident? Here’s a simple explanation, along with a few special situations to be aware of:

Rates going up, up, up

To gauge how much your premium might increase after you’re in a car accident, start by recognizing this is not a forgiving industry. According to a 2017 study conducted by InsuranceQuotes and Quadrant Information Services, if you’re at fault, you can’t escape a rate hike even if it’s your first auto accident. For those filing a claim for $2,000 or more, the study found the premium increase that followed at policy renewal time was 44.1 percent on average. As if that wasn’t enough cause for concern, the study also determined that the increase had jumped six percent between 2014 and 2017, a trend the researchers felt would continue in the years to come.

Most chilling of all: The study based its figure on a hypothetical 45-year-old female. This fictional driver had an excellent credit score, had never let her coverage lapse and had not ever filed a single claim against her policy. Most people are in less ideal coverage situations. That means they’re already paying more for car insurance, and a 44 percent increase would represent even more real dollars for them. Residents of some states would also face even more punishing rate hikes if they were at fault in a car accident and filed a claim. The study found that people who lived in these five states could expect their insurance to go up the most after an accident: California (63.1 percent), New Hampshire (60.3 percent), Texas (59.9 percent), Massachusetts (57.3 percent) and North Carolina (57.3 percent).

Don’t be mad, be careful

Don’t waste a lot of time on outrage, here. Because it turns out it’s legal in most states to increase insurance premiums after a driver files a claim. And it’s nothing personal, just another aspect of the law of averages that insurances companies use to establish rates. “After you make a claim, statistics show you’re more likely to make additional claims and therefore become a riskier customer,” Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes told The Simple Dollar. “To compensate for potential future losses and ensure profitability, insurers charge more.”

Is there an immediate way to avoid your insurance going up after an accident that’s your fault? In some cases, it might be a better idea to avoid the rate hike and pay the claim yourself. To crunch the numbers for your situation, use a calculator like the one available from Insurance Auto Quotes. It allows you to plug in such factors as your premium amount, deductible and what type of accident. It then provides the figures so you can gauge whether it’s better to pay out of pocket and avoid the long-term effects of the price increase or go ahead and file. It may sound crazy not to use the car insurance that you’ve been paying for all along, but the fact is, one claim covered may not be worth increasing your premiums a sizeable amount for years to come.