(a) “Change in condition” defined; benefits.
(1) As used in this Code section, the term “change in condition” means a change in the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of an employee or other beneficiary covered by this chapter, which change must have occurred after the date on which the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of the employee or other beneficiary was last established by award or otherwise.
(2) When an injury is not catastrophic, as defined in subsection (g) of Code Section 34-9-200.1, and the employee is not working, the board shall determine that a change in condition for the better has occurred and the employee shall be entitled to the payment of benefits for partial disability in accordance with Code Section 34-9-262 if it is determined that the employee has been capable of performing work with limitations or restrictions for 52 consecutive weeks. Within 60 days of the employee’s release to return to work with restrictions or limitations, the employer shall provide notice to the employee on a form provided by the board that will inform the employee that he or she has been released to work with limitations or restrictions, will include an explanation of the limitations or restrictions, and will inform the employee of the general terms of this Code section. In no event shall an employee be eligible for more than 78 aggregate weeks of benefits for total disability while such employee is capable of performing work with limitations or restrictions. No provision of this paragraph shall be interpreted to prevent a change in condition from occurring pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection or to prevent an employee from becoming eligible for benefits for total disability should such employee subsequently become totally disabled after exhausting 52 consecutive weeks or 78 aggregate weeks of such benefits while capable of performing work with limitations or restrictions. Whenever an employer seeks to convert an employee from benefits for total disability to benefits for partial disability as provided in this paragraph, such employer may convert the benefits unilaterally by filing a form indicating the reason for the conversion as prescribed by rule of the board.
(3) For the purposes of calculating temporary partial benefits as contemplated by this Code section, benefits shall be paid as follows:
(A) When an employee is receiving the maximum benefits allowed under Code Section 34-9-261, the employer shall cause to be paid the employee an amount equal to the maximum benefit allowed under Code Section 34-9-262; or
(B) When an employee is receiving less than the maximum allowed by Code Section 34-9-261, the employer shall continue to pay the employee the same benefits as provided by Code Section 34-9-261 not to exceed the maximum benefit provided by Code Section 34-9-262.
(b) Modification of prior final decision. The board on its own motion may propose or any party may apply under this Code section for another decision because of a change in condition ending, decreasing, increasing, or authorizing the recovery of income benefits awarded or ordered in the prior final decision, provided that the prior decision of the board was not based on a settlement; and provided, further, that at the time of application not more than two years have elapsed since the date the last payment of income benefits pursuant to Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262 was actually made under this chapter; provided, however, any party may file for benefits solely under Code Section 34-9-263 not more than four years from the date the last payment of income benefits pursuant to Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262 was actually made under this chapter. If, at the time of application, the foregoing requirements have been met but the prior decision is then on appeal to the courts, the entering of a decision on the application shall be deferred pending final ruling of the courts.
(c) Interlocutory orders. On application of either party, for good cause shown, at any time while a claim is pending, the administrative law judge or the board may enter an interlocutory order suspending the payment of all or part of or increasing or decreasing the income benefits due under the decision sought to be modified. Good cause, as shown by preliminary evidence in the form of affidavits, sworn documents, depositions, interrogatories, or medical reports, may include, but not be limited to, an unjustified refusal to accept suitable and available employment, an increase or decrease in the physical impairment or wage-earning capacity of the employee, or the granting of continuance.
(d) Retroactive effect of decision.
(1) Subject to the limitation in subsection (a) of this Code section that a change of condition was a change which occurred after the date on which the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of the employee was last established by award or otherwise, the award or order contained in the final decision entered by the administrative law judge or the board shall be effective as of the time of change in condition as found by the administrative law judge or board, notwithstanding the retroactive effect of the award or order, provided that no execution following a judgment entered under Code Section 34-9-106 shall be affected.
(2) If the decision determines that an overpayment of income benefits has been made and no future income benefits are due, the administrative law judge or the board, in its discretion, may order the employee or beneficiary to repay to the employer or the insurer the sum of the overpayments. Where there has been determined an overpayment of income benefits and future income benefits were due, the decision shall order the overpayment to be recovered by shortening the period of future weekly income benefits or by reducing the weekly benefit, or both.
(e) Credits to employer for lump sum or advance payments. Where a lump sum payment or an advance payment has been made to an employee under Code Section 34-9-222 and a subsequent change in condition is found to have occurred, the employer shall be entitled to credit against future income benefits equal to the amount of the lump sum or advance payment. This shall be accomplished by reducing the period of future weekly income benefits or by reducing the weekly benefit, or both.