Yesterday on the way home from work I narrowly missed crashing into the vehicle in front of me. I was keeping a reasonable amount of following distance but that evaporated quickly because the other vehicle's side brake lights were not functioning. Since it was a mini-van the third brake light didn't register with me until I was already very close. I've run up on fools that have no brake lights before but this was the first true close call. So here's my question: supposing I had rear-ended the other vehicle would I have a leg to stand on since his vehicle wasn't in proper operating condition? Would "no brake lights" be any kind of defense either between insurance companies or in court?