Many documents are signed using an electronic signature in the digital age as opposed to a manual pen signature. Is there any way to ensure these e-signed documents will hold up in a court of law?
Thankfully, there are a few practices to follow to verify the authenticity and legality of these signatures. There are also several companies available to substantiate these digital signatures.
Signed in 2000, the E-Signature Act outlined the rules and regulations concerning the authenticity of electronic signatures. A shorter-term for this legislation is the E-Sign Act. This legislation was passed to establish rules and boundaries to assure electronic signatures were legally binding.
Four common elements come into play regarding the legality of an electronic signature. The first one is review.
This step of the process is relatively self-explanatory. With any legally binding contract, the person signing has to have the ability to read and understand what they are signing. The person requested to sign has to have access to the document to review it. Typically, the binding document is included in the file with the signature request. A checkable box should be included at the end of the form near the signature line, allowing the signer to verify they have been given access to the contract.
Verification of Unique Signature
This part of the process is more on the technical side of things. There has to be some ability to prove the signature is unique to the signer. There are several different ways to do this. One of the more efficient methods is covered ahead.
First, there has to be something that constitutes a signature. This can be anything from checking a square to typing a name into a box, all the way to a mouse pad method that replicates a signature. Either of these three will do as long as one is recorded and documented on the contract.
Second, you’re going to want to make sure there is some date and time stamp that can be tied back to the actual signing. This time and date can be verified by logging the computer’s IP address where the signed documents originated.
Combining all of these elements gives you a strong chance of the document holding up in court. When they’re all tied together, it’s relatively easy to trace the signature back to the person who signed. Next is the matter of consent, which is the third element.
If certain documents are a bit longer or have more to be filled out and checked, it’s a good idea to make sure the person is straightforward on all these conditions. When there are clear conditions that must be met or stipulations someone must agree to, you may highlight these conditions. Highlighting them and bringing them down for review in the signature area is the best practice to ensure the signer is clear on what they agree. This practice can easily beat any argument on the documentation not being clear and concise.
Access and Change
This element protects both parties involved in the documentation process. After the signing transaction is complete, both parties must be allowed to download and examine copies of the documents. They must be allowed to download, print, save, or screenshot every page of the document. This is to ensure that the signer and the party that created the document haven’t gone back and altered the language or signatures.
Traditionally, most documents that are signed electronically are submitted in PDF format. The PDF format is the most secure and reliable format to ensure the authenticity of any digital image.
These are all steps one should take when assembling a contract for digital signing. When all of these elements are combined, the chances of an electronically signed document holding up in court will be raised significantly.
As mentioned before, several third-party companies assist in the matter of electronic document signing.
Certain companies specialize in the digital verification process. These companies can be used by the signer and the maker of the documents to verify the signature’s authenticity. These are just a few of the companies that specialize in this category.
- Adobe Sign
These companies use several pieces of information to assist in the verification process. This information includes the signer’s full names, biometric data, and timestamps. Two-factor authentication is also used via cell phone number or e-mail to verify the signer was present during the time of signing. All of this information is stored in the file’s audit trail and corroborates the document signer’s identity. The information is securely encrypted to ensure that it is completely unaltered.
The use of all the elements described above along with any of these companies can ensure a strong contract that will hold up in court. Make sure that you have integrated DocuSign templates to your software.