- July 29, 2022
- Symphony Ragan, Content Specialist
Some of the most frequent questions we get here at Foxit are related to the legality of electronically signed PDF documents. As digitally signed documents are being used with more frequency by companies and individuals, and due to the nature and importance of many of these documents, their legal usability is a top priority.
Fortunately, electronically signed digital documents are legally binding in the U.S, the United Kingdom, the E.U., and many other parts of the world thanks to legislation like the ESIGN Act, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), and regulations like eIDAS. With these laws in place, signing PDF documents electronically is accepted the same as traditional wet ink signatures for most situations.
Will Electronically Signed Digital PDF Court Admissible?
Yes, electronically signed PDFs and documents will legally stand up in court. To ensure that PDF are court admissible, it is essential that certain criteria are met with each document. Judges will generally look for components such as:
- Auditing Capability: Audit trails are considered one of the most important components by judges. Detailed audit trails prove validity by including details such as timestamps, details on any changes, signer IP addresses, signer names, and signer email addresses.
- Security: Judges and other court officials want to see that signed documents are stringently protected and secure 100% of the time through protocols like SOC 2 Type 2 compliance.
- Authentication Capability: Aspects like signature certificates are important to ensure the signature is verifiable and defensible. Additionally, security and verification tools like two-factor authentication (2FA), knowledge-based authentication (KBA), and qualified electronic signatures (QES) help prove signer identities.
What Types of Documents Can Be Electronically Signed for Court Usage?
Electronically signed PDF documents are submitted as legal evidence and proof in many different court scenarios. Some commonly court-submitted documents include:
- Sales Receipts
- Rental/Lease Agreements
- Business Contracts
- Litigation Filings
- Purchase Contracts
- Letters of Intent
- Acquisition Paperwork
- Employment Agreements
- Partnership Agreements
- And More
While most digital signed documents will legally stand up in court, there are certain documents that require traditional wet ink signatures, including family law paperwork, official court documents, life insurance benefits termination information, health insurance benefits termination, foreclosure paperwork, estate documents, wills, court orders, and toxic materials notices.
Ensuring Court Admissibility of Your Signed PDF Documents
Precision and thoroughness are key when it comes to legally binding court documentation – leave nothing to chance or question. To best ensure court admissibility, key elements such as a detailed audit trail, identification authentication such as 2FA, a demonstrated clear intent to sign, and a process that prevents unlawful tampering such as a public key infrastructure (PKI) are essential.