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Question & Answer Center

Here are some questions that are frequently asked by notaries public. For your convenience, we divided the FAQs into several categories. If an answer to your question is not listed below, please email us at members@usnotaries.com. Our members-only Help Center will research your question and respond within two business days.

Notary Liability, E/O Insurance, and Bonds: Civil Liability

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  What types of improper notarizations carry civil liability?
Examples of notarial misconduct include the following: 1) the notary notarized an instrument without the signer being present; 2) the notary failed to establish the identity of the signer by satisfactory evidence; 3) the notary failed to execute proper notarial procedures; and 4) the notary knew that the document contained false statements, and the notary notarized the document anyway. Your state’s commissioning authority may be able to provide you with additional information regarding this subject matter.
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  Does a notary’s mistake or omission in the performance of a notarization carry civil liability?
Yes. A notary public is liable for all damages caused by his or her errors, omissions, improper notarizations, or negligence in the performance of a notarial act even if such actions were made inadvertently.
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  What liabilities and penalties does a notary public assume when notarizing documents?
A notary public who fails to execute proper notarial procedures may be subject to civil liability for any damages caused by the notary’s official misconduct. If the notary’s misconduct enables a crime to occur, the notary may be subject to criminal liability. The state’s commissioning authority could also suspend or revoke the notary’s commission for violations of the state’s notary laws. Read your state’s notary laws to determine the extent of the liabilities and penalties for notarial misconduct.
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  I notarized a document for a co-worker, which contains a forged signature of which I was not aware of it. Does my notarization subject me to civil liability?
Violations and unlawful acts of official misconduct create civil liability for the notary public. A notary is liable to the person involved for all damages caused by his or her notarial misconduct. If a notary’s official negligence or misconduct is the proximate cause of a person’s financial losses, such person may sue and recover damages from the notary public and his notary surety bond. Please consult with an attorney for legal advice.
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  What are the legal consequences for a notary who notarizes a signature in the absence of the principal signer?
A notary’s official misconduct carries civil and criminal liability, which includes disciplinary action by the state’s commissioning authority. If a notary’s official negligence or misconduct is the proximate cause of a person’s financial losses, such person may sue and recover damages from the notary public. The person may also file a claim against his/her notary surety bond if the notary has a bond.
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  What is the consequence of a notary who notarizing a document by simply affixing her notary signature and seal without a notarial certificate?
Merely affixing the notary’s signature and seal to a document constitutes an invalid notarization. Most states’ statutes dictate that a notary public must execute a notarial certificate in the performance of a notarial act. Violations and acts of official misconduct create civil and criminal liability for the notary. When an individual or employer requests that you notarize a document that does not meet the lawful requirements and standards for a proper notarization, as a notary, you must decline the notarization.
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  My co-worker is allowing others to notarize on his behalf when he is out to lunch or out sick. Is this legal?
No. A notary public commission is nontransferable. The authority of a notary public cannot be transferred to another individual. Generally, states’ laws indicate that any person who acts as, or otherwise willfully impersonates, a notary public while not lawfully appointed and commissioned to perform notarial acts is guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony punishable upon conviction by a fine or by imprisonment or both.
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  If my employer wants me to violate notary laws, does that subject me to civil liability?
Yes. Remind your employer that violations of notary law and misconduct create civil and criminal liability for the notary public. The employer may also be held jointly and severally liable for damages if the notary was acting in the scope of his or her employment and the employer knew or should have known of the notary’s official misconduct. The employer could face vicarious liability when the employer coerces a notary public to break notary laws or perform an illegal notarial act.
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