(a) Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed so as to prevent settlements made by and between the employee and employer but rather to encourage them, so long as the amount of compensation and the time and manner of payment are in accordance with this chapter. A workers’ compensation insurer shall not be authorized to settle a claim on behalf of its insured employer without giving prior notice to such employer of the terms of the settlement agreement. A copy of any such settlement agreement shall be filed by the employer with the board, and no such settlement shall be binding until approved by the board. Whenever it shall appear to the board, by stipulation of the parties or otherwise, that there is a bona fide dispute as to facts, the determination of which will materially affect the right of the employee or dependent to recover compensation or the amount of compensation to be recovered, or that there is a genuine dispute as to the applicability of this chapter, and it further appears that the parties have agreed upon a settlement between themselves, which settlement gives due regard and weight to the conflicting evidence available relating to the disputed facts or to the questions as to the applicability of this chapter, then, upon such determination, the board shall approve the settlement and enter an award conforming to the terms thereof even though such settlement may provide for the payment of compensation in a sum or sums less than would be payable if there were no conflict as to the employee’s right to recover compensation. When such settlement has been agreed upon and approved by the board, it shall constitute a complete and final disposition of all claims on account of the incident, injury, or injuries referred to therein, and the board shall not be authorized to enter upon any award subsequent to such board approval amending, modifying, or changing in any manner the settlement, nor shall the settlement be subject to review by the board under Code Section 34-9-104.
(b) The board shall be authorized to approve a stipulated settlement between the parties which concludes that there is no liability under this chapter and to retain jurisdiction to enforce any agreement which resolves, in whole or in part, a claim filed with the board. If payments required under such an agreement are not made within 20 days, the board may assess a penalty of 20 percent in the same manner as provided in Code Section 34-9-221. When such settlement has been agreed upon and approved by the board, it shall constitute a complete and final disposition of all claims on account of the incident, injury, or injuries referred to therein, and the board shall not be authorized to enter upon any award subsequent to such board approval amending, modifying, or changing in any manner the settlement, nor shall the settlement be subject to review by the board under Code Section 34-9-104.
(c) The parties by agreement and with the approval of the board may enter into a compromise lump sum settlement resolving all issues which prorates the lump sum settlement over the life expectancy of the injured worker. When such an agreement has been approved, neither the weekly compensation rate paid throughout the case nor the maximum statutory weekly rate applicable to the injury shall apply. No compensation rate shall exceed the maximum statutory weekly rate as of the date of injury. Instead, the prorated rate set forth in the approved settlement documents shall control and become the rate for that case. This subsection shall be retroactive in effect.