Man driving without insurance looking out the back of his car

When it comes to auto insurance, inexperienced drivers sometimes assume it’s a good financial bet to skip the insurance policy and take the risks, thinking they can be careful enough not to cause an accident.

About 12.6% of motorists in this country are uninsured, according to a 2014 study by the nonprofit research organization Insurance Research Council.

So what happens if you drive without insurance? If you’re involved in a car accident and don’t have insurance or enough coverage, it may cost you a lot more out of pocket than you anticipate and there could be legal risks. Here are some potential costs and consequences of driving without insurance.

The car you hit

If you are deemed to be at fault and live in a state that requires that party to pay damages, you may be responsible to repair the car you hit. Average auto claims for property damage were $3,231 in 2013, while average collision claims were $3,144.

Even seemingly minor body damage on a car can run much more than expected, especially if more than one car part or system is involved.

Your car

You may choose not to repair your own car if it’s cosmetic damage or doesn’t affect its functioning. But if you need to pay a large repair bill to get your vehicle running again, or if you need to purchase another car, you may regret driving without insurance.

Physical injuries

If people in your car were injured or only those in the other car, you may be responsible for their medical bills and economic claims. Insurance companies paid an average of $14,207 per economic claim in 2012, which included medical care, lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses, according to the Insurance Research Council report. Bodily injury claims alone were $10,541 on average in 2012.

Your medical insurance may cover your personal injuries after you pay the deductible and applicable co-payments. But that’s something that would be covered under an auto insurance policy, if you purchased that coverage.

Legal costs

If you are at fault in the accident, the other party may sue you for damages. Without insurance you are on the hook for your legal costs, and possibly for theirs as well.

State motor vehicle/license penalties

State auto insurance requirements help and protect everyone and have various penalties for those caught driving without insurance. Depending on the state, authorities may do one or more of the following: revoke or suspend your license, fine you $75 to $1,500, suspend your car registration, imprison you or impound your car, according to the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit consortium of consumer organizations. If you need to reinstate your license or registration, there will be additional fees.

Getting in a car accident can be extraordinarily expensive, which is why driving without insurance is never a wise decision There are ways to get auto insurance that might cost less than you think. Contact Nationwide to find out your auto insurance options.

Insurance terms, definitions and explanations are intended for informational purposes only and do not in any way replace or modify the definitions and information contained in individual insurance contracts, policies or declaration pages, which are controlling. Such terms and availability may vary by state and exclusions may apply.