Let's assume a utilitarian framework.

Imagine that you accidentally kill someone. Say, you drive into them with your car. For the purpose of this question, let us assume that their death is confirmed (obviously if they are not dead or you aren't sure, you ought to try and help them).

My question is, is it unethical to not stay, and thus escape a possible punishment? Has philosopher's discussed this question?

  • 1
    For the basic question, there's many ethical theories that would find it acceptable to bypass the legal system if kill someone completely by accident... There's fewer that would accept Say, you drive into them with your car as a species of that. / Do you have a specific ethical framework in mind?
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 22:29
  • Hm, say Utilitarianism? I'm thinking there are two "happinesses" at play: if you stay, your own happiness may drop significantly if you end up getting charged and imprisoned, but, on the other hand, if the victim had a family, they may be slightly more happy if they knew "justice/revenge" had been served properly.
    – Dune
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 23:21
  • No, it is not; and it is also illegal (i.e. violation of law). Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 6:31
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    I'm not sure the words "ethical" and "utilitarian" work together.
    – user935
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 18:56

3 Answers 3


What if you accidentally break something that does not belong to you and nobody notices. Is it then ethical to not say anything about it? I do not think so, and so the same goes for accidentally killing someone.


I would say clearly there is an issue with the response "it is ethical". Do you not find it hard to believe that if the majority of people flee the scene of an accident there would be problem? Ethics is not the law. You cannot use the law to say something about morality as they are distinct fields. Something can be immoral and be law. To say "well x is legal iso i can do x" is a cop out and simply taking advantage.

So if the majority of people flee the scene would that be acceptable? Does it depend on who does the hitting and who is victimized?


You might argue : An evil - bad state of affairs - has occurred (caused by my accident). If I stay and am punished, this will only add another evil - another bad state of affairs - to the world (assuming you regard punishment as an evil). Two evils are worse than one, so zoom off as fast as you safely can.

I expect disagreement but exactly what is wrong with the '2 evils versus 1' argument ?

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