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Keeping Up With Your Notary Commission Part V

Notaries perform their duties with unlimited liability and responsibility for any financial loss that may occur from an improper action. This exposure has the potential to leave you vulnerable to a lawsuit and can lead to disciplinary action like loss of your commission. While providing notary services comes with inherent risk of liability, there are measures you can take to help minimize your exposure.

Errors and Omissions Insurance

Your notary bond is designed to protect the public from financial harm that results from any negligent mistake or intentional misconduct you might commit while performing a notarization. In the event that your actions cause a party to experience monetary loss, your bonding company will pay for that loss up to the limits of the bond, while holding you financially responsible. Any notary bond that is paid out because of a judgment must be repaid to the bonding company. Mistakes do happen, regardless how careful you are, and your notary bond is not insurance protection for you. If you want personal protection, you need to purchase Errors and Omissions insurance from your bonding company. E&O coverage ranges from $10,000 to $100,000, lasts the entire length of your commission, and can help pay for damages resulting from an expensive judgment. (E&O insurance will not pay when there is an intentional violation.)

Education

Learning and practicing proper notary procedures, and following your state’s notary laws, are the best ways to protect yourself. It is also essential that notaries keep their finger on the pulse of their industry by regularly checking for law updates and seeking refresher training. Maintaining a membership in a professional organization for notaries, like the American Society of Notaries, will help keep you informed and up to date.

Reasonable Care

The general legal meaning of “reasonable care” is, the degree of care that a prudent and rational person would use in same or similar circumstances. This means that notaries who are sensible and obey the law will act in a reasonable manner when performing their duties. Presence and identification are the two most important aspects of preventing fraud and forgery, and a notary using reasonable care should never perform a notarization without the signer being physically present at the time of the notarization. You must also be satisfied with the identity of the signer. Another example of exercising reasonable care to reduce liability would be refusing to make exceptions for friends, family, coworkers, or employers.

Keep Records

If kept accurately, the notary record book is a tool that can provide a reference should a particular notarization come into question at a later date. An accurate entry may show your compliance with the law by demonstrating the following:

  • the person for whom you notarized personally appeared before you
  • that you took every reasonable step to verify their identity as provided by your state’s notary law
  • the signature you notarized is genuine and belongs to the person who claims to own it.