The COVID-19 pandemic brought forth many challenges along with it. A significant problem that was faced by businesses all over the world was to get the work done amidst social restrictions.
These restrictions led people to make many processes electronically centred. An example of one such process is whether and how were the documents validated with an online signature.
In this blog, we will see an electronic signing in the COVID world and beyond.
Electronic Signatures During COVID
Ever since the launch of electronic signatures, the world has been permitted and legally enforceable to sign documents electronically. Many organizations have increasingly relied on physical signatures to bring much better patient confidentiality.
However, accepting the use of electronic signatures online is no longer just an option in the present world. Rather, it has become a norm for the future that lies ahead. From what it looks like, electronic signature-free is going to become increasingly common.
In fact, for supporting the continued PHI access during the COVID-19, HIPAA also softened guidelines related to alternative forms of signatures. These guidelines include:
- The digital signatures are used to safeguard and prevent any tampering with documents. There is a mathematical algorithm used for verifying the signer which is how the certificate proves the authentication of the signer.
- On the other hand, an electronic signature can be captured in various ways. This includes a scanned copy of a person’s signature, a fingertip, a mouse or screen, a handwritten signature created with a stylus, etc. In essence, it is very easy to create an online signature.
- Finally, the voice signatures included a recorded verbal agreement rather than a handwritten signature which involves a series of questions that the signer must answer.
The use of electronic signatures however has been the most prevalent. The kinds of e-signature online that are accepted usually include:
- A person typing his/her name on a contract or on an email that contains the terms of a contract.
- A person who is electronically pasting signatures on an image into an electronic version of the contract in an appropriate place.
- A person who is accessing a contract through an online e-signature platform. The person must click to have their names typed or get the handwriting font inserted automatically in an appropriate place.
- A person who uses a finger, stylus, pen, or a touchscreen to write their name electronically within a contract.
The above mentioned are some of the types of electronic signatures that can be proven admissible in evidence. The strength of these signatures will depend on the facts.
Another way to sign a document in a virtual means that is not referred to as electronic signing is called wet ink which includes sending a scan of the signed document.
This has rather been a widely accepted and established method of signing the documents. However, there is an increasing observation that many people lack the printing and scanning facilities at their homes which ultimately leads to an increase in using electronic signatures.
Using Different Methods Together
It is possible to sign a document validly by using a wide combination of wet ink and electronic signatures. Some of these common documents include:
- Simple contracts can be signed with an electronic signature.
- Documents can be signed using an e-signature free. However, signatories must make sure that when the signatures are sent, the entire document is sent with it.
- For some companies, there are a couple of documents signed with an electronic signature which is subject to the company’s article of association. This includes board minutes, written resolutions of any kind, and the minutes of proceedings at the general meetings.
Electronic Witnessing of Documents
In many cases, it becomes necessary or even more preferable that a witness signs a document. For example, where an individual is going or how many company directors are available.
The important point that must be noted here is that the witness should be physically present to see that the signatory is electronically signing the document. Witnessing is not something that takes place by a video feed.
The witness can easily attest electronically or in wet ink because there is never any need for the witness to sign the document. Before the pandemic of COVID-19, the practice of witnessing not being a family member was followed extensively.
However, there is no legal restriction anymore and it is accepted if the witness is a family member, a civil partner, or a spouse. That said, it should be noted that the declarations are allowed to be administered remotely.
There are some other important things that one must be mindful of at the time of signing or even arranging the signing of documents. These include:
- Checking if the people who sign are authorized
- Verifying that the constitution of any company signing never restricts how the documents should be signed
- Any parties involved should not have internal policies that can cause a problem
- Foreign entities should take law advice and consider the place at which the document is being signed.
In the future, the use of electronic signature software will become much more than it is right now and COVID-19 had a huge role to play in this. The social restrictions made people realize that signing documents electronically is possible.
The ones who didn’t see the innumerable benefits of online signatures were led to see them. Now that so many people have already realized the benefits of electronic signatures, it is most definitely going to become common in the future.