As more and more documents and transactions are handled completely electronically, tech companies have stepped up to provide a variety of ways for people to ensure that the digital signature they’re making is just as fraud-proof, and perhaps even more so, than a signature in pen on a document. But, do these signatures hold up in court?
Historically, many people signing documents could not read or write, so even asking them to write their name on the bottom of a contract was impossible. They still needed to be able to sign legal documents, so they often “made their mark” or wrote an X to symbolize their agreement. Legally, your signature does not have to be a cursive or stylized rendition of your name, though that is what most people do today. The signature is merely a showing of intent on the part of the party signing the agreement to be bound by the contract. There are even ways to have an agent sign for you and bind you to an agreement if you cannot do it yourself.
Like the paper equivalent, an electronic signature is a marking you make to indicate your agreement with a particular document. This can be done by typing your name, drawing your name on the screen, or writing /s, all of which are common ways of marking electronic documents. The U.S Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act allows electronic signatures on most transactions and most states have similar state laws that have followed suit. Utah has adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act which states that a document shall not be “denied legal effect or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.”
Digital signatures refer to the more complex, encrypted signatures often used in real estate, banking, and legal transactions that take advantage of software specifically designed to capture the signature and certain authorizing information. When you place a digital signature on the document, the computer creates an encryption key based on your signature, the time and location, and the contents of the document. If any of these are altered, the encryption is broken. This better verifies the authenticity of the signed document and makes it harder to forge or modify the document once signed.
While a digital signature prevents alterations and other types of fraud, it is not in itself proof of intent to sign. Certain legal proceedings still need to be appropriately witnessed and notarized in order to have binding effect. Further, with the length of digital contracts and the rise of click-wrap agreements, it is important to consider other factors in determining whether a signature is binding.
If you’re considering a civil lawsuit over a contract, the team from Dunn Law Firm can help you and your team review the specifics of the agreement and arrangement and determine the best course of action. Reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 and set up a free consultation today.